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Joint Committee on Justice and Equality debate -
Wednesday, 26 Jun 2019

Garda Reform and Related Issues: Discussion

The purpose of the meeting is to meet the Garda Commissioner, Mr. Drew Harris, who is very welcome. We will receive an update on the implementation of the Garda reform plan and miscellaneous issues that have arisen since the Garda Commissioner was last before us in early February. He is joined by Mr. John Twomey, deputy commissioner for policing and security, and Mr. Joseph Nugent, chief administrative officer, who are both welcome. Also present are Mr. Andrew McLindon, director of communications, and Ms Marie Broderick, superintendent in the Office of the Garda Commissioner, who are also very welcome.

Witnesses are protected by absolute privilege in respect of the evidence they give to the committee. However, if they are directed by it to cease giving evidence on a particular matter and continue to do so, they are entitled thereafter only to qualified privilege in respect of their evidence. They are directed that only evidence connected with the subject matter of these proceedings is to be given and asked to respect the parliamentary practice to the effect that, where possible, they should not criticise or make charges against any person or entity by name or in such a way as to make him, her or it identifiable.

Members should be aware that under the salient rulings of the Chair, they should not comment on, criticise or make charges against a person outside the Houses or an official, either by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable.

I invite the Garda Commissioner to make his opening statement.

Mr. Drew Harris

I thank the joint committee for the invitation to meet it. Since our last appearance before it in February, An Garda Síochána has continued to implement the Government's plan, A Policing Service for the Future, as well as delivering on our core mission to keep the people of Ireland safe. Keeping people safe is a guiding principle on which we base our strategic and operational decisions. My vision for An Garda Síochána is very much a victim-centred police service which protects the most vulnerable and provides a consistently high standard of service, all set within a human rights framework.

A Policing Service for the Future is the foundation for An Garda Síochána in delivering on that vision. For the communities we serve, I emphasis because I do not get to say it enough that it will mean more gardaí on the front line and increased visibility; a more responsive policing service suited to local needs; gardaí equipped with modern technology to prevent and tackle crime; a human-rights based approach to policing; and strengthened national security. For our own people, Garda members and staff, it will mean tools and supports, including a new operational uniform and mobile technology to keep the public and members safe, to include, from yesterday's announcement, the introduction of body-worn video and enhanced automatic number plate recognition, ANPR, and CCTV systems; greater training and welfare supports; a transparent and manifestly fair promotion and appointment system for specialisms; and Government agencies working with us to address deep-seated societal problems.

A Policing Service for the Future is a multi-annual project, but nearly six months into its implementation we and, more importantly, the public are already seeing some of the benefits. So far this year, we have introduced the following changes: the roll-out of computer-aided dispatch and regional control rooms; the roll-out of our investigation management system has commenced; over 100 gardaí have moved into front-line duties from administrative-type roles; over 350 Garda staff have joined the organisation; and 100 new Garda Reserve members have been recruited and are close to finishing their training programme. This builds on considerable progress made in 2018 in important areas such as Garda visibility, civilianisation or workforce modernisation and supervision. Last year over 1,000 people joined An Garda Síochána, bringing diverse experience and skills. That figure included 800 gardaí. A total of 250 gardaí moved into front-line operational duties from administrative roles, while there was the introduction of divisional protective service units to assist in the investigation of crimes, particularly against the vulnerable, such as domestic abuse, serious sexual assault and human trafficking. In addition, in late 2018 and into early 2019, there were almost 500 promotions to sergeant and inspector level which have greatly boosted our supervisory capacity, as well as allowing movement within the organisation for those who are ambitious. This increase in our supervisory capacity has had a dramatic impact on operational delivery. This was a key concern in the internal cultural audit of staff to ensure we had sufficient managers to ensure the delivery of a professional service to communities through managing, guiding, supporting and mentoring gardaí.

It is clear from successive Garda public attitudes surveys that the public have a high level of satisfaction with the service we provide for local communities. People also generally have a low level of fear of crime in their local area and, at 90% in our latest survey, a high level of trust in An Garda Síochána. We do not take this for granted, but there are many other police services across the world which would love to have similar results in an attitude survey. However, we can always improve and a priority of A Policing Service for the Future is to further strengthen the connection we have with communities. This will be done primarily through our divisional policing model which will bring policing even closer to communities. It will do this by delegating greater autonomy and authority to chief superintendents and superintendents to make decisions on how they use their resources to deal with the issues of most concern in their local command areas. At the same time, it frees up these same officers, chief superintendents and superintendents, from administrative tasks and allows them to concentrate more on local delivery of the policing service. In addition, it will see the introduction of community policing teams that will focus on identifying the problems for local communities and how they, as teams working with other agencies, can put solutions, I hope for the long term, in place. In designing this, we have taken careful note of the committee's recent report of March 2019 on the subject of community policing and rural crime. It will also see additional gardaí on the front line by replacing Garda staff in administrative roles; improved support for investigations; and a more streamlined administration system. We have been piloting these divisional policing models in Galway, Mayo, Cork and DMR south central. So far, reports are good, but these are pilot schemes that have been designed to identify where further improvements can be made.

As stated by the Commission on the Future of Policing, human rights must be central in how we deliver policing. It provides a tried and tested framework for how we can collectively approach operational dilemmas and use our coercive powers in a manner which promotes public confidence. In implementation of A Policing Service for the Future we have set up a human rights unit, re-established our strategic human rights advisory council and employed an independent human rights expert, while further individuals will be employed to support the human rights unit. Being a human rights compliant organisation will ultimately depend on our behaviour as a collective and the manner in which we deliver our policing service. Every Garda member and member of staff has an obligation in that regard. Individual responsibility can ensure a high level of organisational compliance. Human rights are not an optional extra. They are the foundation for delivering a policing service that will have the respect and confidence of the community. They need to be front and centre in all of our policing considerations and at the core of our decision-making.

A key recommendation from the Commission on the Future of Policing was that policing and public safety very often required a multi-agency approach and were not the sole responsibility of An Garda Síochána. Issues such as drug crime, repeat offending and mental health can only be meaningfully dealt with through a multi-agency response. This joined-up approach provides significant opportunities to provide an improved, more holistic service for communities and particularly the vulnerable. It is an approach that will help to reduce crime, including violent crime and quality of life-type crime, both of which have a significant impact on individuals and communities. It will also free-up time for gardaí to progress community policing initiatives, be more proactive and less reactive and prevent crime from happening in the first instance. I look forward to continuing to work with Departments and State agencies to deliver these changes and ask for the committee's support in that regard. While these changes are ongoing, every day our personnel continue to make a positive difference to the lives and safety of the people. We do this by preventing and tackling a wide range of crimes, maintaining national security, protecting the vulnerable and ensuring public safety. As I said, An Garda Síochána is going through a time of significant change. It will be change for the better in the policing service we provide. Some changes have been delivered, some will be delivered by year end and some will take several years to deliver. However, I am certain the changes will ensure the provision of an improved policing and security service for the people through our strong bond with the communities we serve.

I thank the Commissioner. Gabhaim buíochas leis. We will move to members to ask questions or, as the case may be, make comments.

I thank the Commissioner and his colleagues for coming. I note that they have had a lengthy day. They were before the Policing Authority earlier. I will raise a couple of issues with them.

Many people were concerned and upset when the story of retired Garda Majella Moynihan broke. I commend the Commissioner on meeting her. I will not ask him for the details of his private meeting with her, but is he satisfied that the force is now a tolerant and receptive place for employees, particularly women?

Mr. Drew Harris

Yes. The story Majella related made me rethink where we were in the manner we treated gender and how we treated women in the workplace. We are coming up to the 60th anniversary of the recuitment of the first female members of An Garda Síochána. It is a good time to think afresh about what we are doing in terms of the diversity of the organisation, not alone along gender lines but also in other areas in which there is under-representation. There is more we can do about increasing representation in the organisation. We have taken some steps this year with the introduction of a different uniform code which will allow the wearing of the hijab and the turban. We have endeavoured this month to have a significant outreach by participating in Pride and showing our support in being an inclusive organisation, one which is open to a diverse section of society in joining it and providing a service to protect what is a diverse society.

All told, Ms Moynihan's is a shocking tale from the past.

It could not happen now. We want to make it clear to individuals who are looking into the organisation that it is an open and inclusive environment. We want to ensure that we are doing everything possible to make that completely clear to the public we serve, including those who wish to join the organisation.

When I visited the Garda College in Templemore recently, I was very impressed. I had not been there before. Is the Commissioner satisfied with the quality of recruits coming into An Garda Síochána? What are his views on that matter?

Mr. Drew Harris

Despite almost full employment, we have a great deal of interest in our competitions. Over 5,000 people applied to join An Garda Síochána at a recent competition. That is good. I am satisfied with the quality of students I meet in the college. When I visit Garda stations, I meet members who are a credit to themselves and to An Garda Síochána. I am impressed with the quality of staff in the organisation overall. The quality of Garda staff and the level of public support for the force are two really important fundamental building blocks for the organisation as it moves forward. Now we must deliver the reform package to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of An Garda Síochána. We are in a very strong position from the perspectives of Garda personnel and public support.

We have had outbreaks of serious criminal activity in a number of provincial towns recently. How is An Garda Síochána responding to the increased criminal activity in Drogheda and Longford? Does the Commissioner think the Garda response is succeeding?

Mr. Drew Harris

The two scenarios are very different. When there is an upsurge of criminal activity in any area, we have to make it clear that law and order will prevail. In the short term, we make an effort to make sure we retake the streets. In the medium to long term, we have to work with other agencies to provide a more holistic societal response. Other agencies can have an impact on the life opportunities of individuals who engage in crime. We have invested in additional supports for County Louth overall. When we become aware that operational problems exist, we make sure there is an immediate response and national support from specialist units. Local populations should also be assured that the rule of law will prevail and that we are retaking the streets.

Does the Commissioner believe there is greater visibility of An Garda Síochána in towns like Drogheda and Longford to deal with criminal activity now?

Mr. Drew Harris

In rural areas, we have returned to the level of strength we enjoyed at the high point of 2011. In some cases, we are exceeding that level. The displacement of more experienced members from administrative roles is ongoing. In my time as Commissioner, I have seen 800 members pass out of Templemore and more than 350 members moved into operational roles. All of that has had an impact. The next priorities for us are the Dublin metropolitan region and the Louth division. The Border region is also a priority in light of some of the issues arising there.

The drug trade is causing much of the crime in those areas. How big a problem does the Commissioner consider illegal drug-taking and drug-dealing to be? He mentioned that other Government agencies could support the Garda in its efforts to deal with societal problems. What other agencies of State could help it to deal with the societal problem of drugs? What would he like them to do?

Mr. Drew Harris

There are a couple of elements to the drugs problem. The organised crime element, which is leading to vicious feuds, is very much a policing problem. At the opposite end, there is an addiction problem, which is a health problem, in effect. I do not think there is a criminal justice response to that. In the middle of that, the casual use of drugs like cocaine by people with sufficient wealth who do not live in areas that are badly affected by violence is a policing issue as well. There are degrees of drug use. It is my genuine view that addiction is a health issue and requires a health solution. Organised crime will always be our issue. The possession and use of some drugs, particularly the so-called recreational use of cocaine, is very much a policing issue.

Are people who take cocaine are sufficiently informed about the link between their drug use and the violence it creates in other parts of the country?

Mr. Drew Harris

We could mention other parts of the world as well as other parts of the country. One would have to be completely blinkered to world news, and even to modern entertainment, to be unaware of the direct link between cocaine and other illicit drugs and violence. It is prevalent in Ireland and across the world.

If we have a hard Brexit and there are two customs regimes on this island - I am not asking the Commissioner to say whether this will happen because none of us knows - what resources will be required by An Garda Síochána if it receives a direction to police the Border?

Mr. Drew Harris

It will depend on the threats that arise. An Garda Síochána is a community-based policing organisation. We are coping with threats that have arisen, as we have done in the past. Organised crime is one such threat. As tariffs start to diverge, there will be opportunities to smuggle counterfeit goods. That will require a response. The threat of terrorism could also arise. We will have to see. We do not know what kind of Brexit we are going to get. We do not know what the severity of the issues that may arise will be. If we look at the situation at the moment, we will see the amount of criminality we have in any case. I refer to the number of ATM robberies that are taking place, the amount of smuggling that is going on and the amount of other crime that such activity is funding. It is prudent for us to make sure the Border area is well resourced. We are doing that. We are moving resources there. We have made undertakings around roads policing, armed support units and the general strengths of that area.

I welcome the Commissioner and his team. I thank them for coming before the committee. I welcome the Commissioner's vision for protecting the most vulnerable people and providing a consistently high standard of service. I welcome the increase in the number of front-line gardaí as part of the move towards a more visible and more responsive policing service which is better suited to local needs.

I live in Louth, which is a very proud county. Drogheda is experiencing a bad time as a result of shootings and petrol bombings. Over 75 criminal attacks have happened in Drogheda since last July. It is getting a bad name and we want that to stop. At 8.20 p.m. last Thursday, a man was shot in Termon Abbey in the north of the town. Children who were playing in the area ran away in fear and are now afraid to go out on the streets. Three hours later, there was a petrol bomb attack on a house in Moneymore. Luckily, no one was in the house at the time. Last night, a petrol bomb was thrown at a house in the Rathmullan area of the town. Tens of thousands of people from all over the country visited Drogheda in August 2018 when Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann was held there. The people of the town, the local authorities, the gardaí and the many volunteers did a fantastic job during the festival. Drogheda had a fantastic name before all of this happened suddenly in recent months.

I commend Chief Superintendent Christy Mangan. As a former football manager, I am always pleased to get an opportunity to praise a team. Chief Superintendent Mangan has nothing but praise for the courage of the gardaí in Drogheda in confronting these gangs. He has spoken about the acts of bravery and kindness of many members of the force. Most people do not get to hear about such acts. We welcome the deployment of an extra 25 gardaí to the town in recent weeks. We also welcome the presence of the armed emergency response team and the regional support units. It is not nice to live in Drogheda at the moment. Drogheda is a fantastic town and has a lot to offer. Can the Commissioner give the people of Drogheda any kind of comfort?

The Fleadh will happen again this year and tens of thousands of people will visit the town. People living in Drogheda are afraid. Children are scared to go out on the street. We have the necessary resources but the crimes to which I refer are still happening. I know that the position will not change overnight but can the Commissioner give any kind of comfort to the people of Drogheda and County Louth?

Mr. Drew Harris

I will pass over to Mr. Twomey shortly in order that he can address some of the operational details. It was in August of last year that these difficulties started to arise, when a drug gang entered into this vicious feud. The optimism and room for hope that I hope to convey is that Christy Mangan and I have made a commitment to support that area through strong and visible policing. We have not reneged on that. We have kept up our focus and we have had successes. Individuals will be before the courts for all sorts of offences, including some very serious offences. People have been charged. Serious offences have been detected. We will keep the pressure on. We recognise the corrosive impact that this is having on the area and we are alive to it in the context of what we can do, at the centre to support the policing effort and to support the local community. We are particularly aware of the upcoming Fleadh in August and the impact that can have in providing a positive image of the town and how we will support that and make sure that it is a successful event on our part, in protecting it and ensuring that people can go about their lawful business. Mr. Twomey has been leading the national operational response.

Mr. John Twomey

I reiterate what the Commissioner has stated, namely, that our commitment is to the people of Louth and that we will do whatever is necessary to provide a safe community for those people to go about their daily lives. There will be no change to that and whatever resources are required to achieve that objective will be provided. Issues such as this have been dealt with before by An Garda Síochána and through working with the community on resilience and commitment, the rule of law will prevail. We will work closely with the people of Louth to give them the community that they deserve. Since these issues arose, we have had a number of initiatives where we have combined national and local resources. We have provided additional resources both for front-line preventative measures and the armed support unit. All of the skills available to the organisation have been targeted towards this specific issue. They will remain in place until this issue is resolved and it will be resolved.

All the people in Drogheda want is help. It is a fantastic town. What has happened in the last few months cannot keep going on. The job that was done in Limerick was fantastic. It was fast and sharp. All that the people in Drogheda want is something similar to what happened in Limerick.

On 13 February, the first occasion on which the Commissioner attended the committee, we spoke about the murder of Tom Oliver, a husband and father of seven children who was murdered on 19 July 1991. He was abducted, tortured and brutally murdered by members of the Provisional IRA. His body was found across the Border in Belleeks in County Armagh. He had been shot in the head. The Commissioner stated that this was in the jurisdiction of the PSNI, which was investigating the murder. Since we spoke on 13 February, has he contacted the PSNI and has there been any update in the investigation of the Tom Oliver murder?

Mr. Drew Harris

My understanding is that the murder of Tom Oliver is now subject to review. The review team has visited. It has viewed our documentation and will follow the legal process so that it can obtain the information and evidence that we have to assist with its inquiry. As the Deputy is aware, we have conducted our own review into this investigation. We possess information which will be of assistance to the PSNI under Operation Kenova to review this murder.

I thank the Commissioner. We spoke about the Smithwick tribunal in October 2012 which was run in closed session. We spoke about one file in particular which was compiled by the PSNI, the RUC and MI5, the British Security Service. That intelligence indicated that a senior Provisional IRA council member was directly involved in ordering the murder of Tom Oliver. The Commissioner attended that meeting as assistant chief constable in the PSNI.

Mr. Drew Harris

That is correct.

The Commissioner was asked whether he knew the identity of the Provisional IRA man. He said that he did and that he passed the information on to the Garda Síochána. He also wrote the name down on a piece of paper and gave it to Judge Peter Smithwick. The last thing I was told was that the paper was a matter for the Chief Constable of Northern Ireland. Mr. Harris is now Garda Commissioner. Is that paper which was passed to the Garda still in the possession of An Garda Síochána? Is the Commissioner in a position to name the person mentioned on it?

Mr. Drew Harris

That intelligence was shared with An Garda Síochána so it is now in my possession. It would be entirely inappropriate, given that there is an ongoing review of the murder investigation, for me to disclose that name. In any case, I would be in breach of a form of data protection and my Article 2 responsibilities if I gave that name in a public forum. That would preclude me from naming any individual in such a forum. I have covered that there is a review ongoing and that information is available to that review team.

My main concern is that this murder happened in 1991. The Commissioner is a man of his word. At the meeting on 13 February, he said that he would meet the Oliver family, and he met them. The experience that he had in the PSNI and the job that he has done so far as Commissioner of the Garda is very good. People are responding to him. It is an awful shame that we cannot get closure on a murder that happened in July 1991. Some of the family members have died. The family is suffering. The fact that the PSNI and the Garda Síochána have the name of the person who ordered the murder of Tom Oliver and that it is sitting dormant is not fair. Something should be done and the name should be published. Where do we go from here?

Mr. Drew Harris

We have been through a review of our investigation. There is a review by the Operation Kenova team and we are assisting it with the information and evidence that we hold. An investigative process is under way, with the objective of leading to a criminal justice outcome if possible.

I thank the Commissioner and his team for their presentation and answers.

I thank the Commissioner and his team for coming before us. I want to talk about Majella Moynihan. My colleague, Deputy O'Callaghan, mentioned her case but I want to expand further on it. What happened to Ms Moynihan in 1984 exposed the distressing reality of what life was like for women in Ireland not long ago. It is heartening to hear that the Commissioner feels that it would not happen within his organisation now. I know that he and the Minister for Justice and Equality have met Majella Moynihan. There are outstanding issues which I would like to discuss. I come from a Garda family and I have the height of respect for the Garda and the important work its members do. I was sick to the pit of my stomach when I listened to Ms Moynihan's interview on radio. It was distressing. Ms Moynihan was a vulnerable young woman. She grew up in care. It was heartbreaking to listen to her talk about being accepted into Templemore and how it was the start of a bright new future for her.

She felt liberated from her upbringing, having lost her mother at a very young age. Instead of having a bright future, she experienced the most horrible abuse. She was interrogated and faced dismissal for having a baby outside marriage. She was forced to give that baby up and she regrets that deeply. She was treated like a scarlet woman by her colleagues when she returned to work after having given up a very much wanted baby. Ms Moynihan was told by an assistant Garda commissioner in 1989 that her career would go nowhere because of her history. Very distressingly, she attempted suicide on five occasions and had to retire from An Garda Síochána on grounds of ill health. There are still some serious questions outstanding. I would like to ask Mr. Harris some of them. Ms Moynihan was given a redacted version of her personnel file in 2017 and she was told that the unredacted version was either lost or destroyed. Was that file destroyed or is it lost?

Mr. Drew Harris

I met Ms Moynihan and her solicitor last week. She was very clear then that all contact with her would be through her solicitor. She wished to retreat back into her own privacy. May I address the questions in light of her expressed views at the time? With regard to the documentation, we do have files. Those are the files retrieved from electronic storage. The original files were subject to a weeding process but an electronic copy was taken. Various files of paperwork have been provided over time. We have a voluminous amount of paper. It is very difficult to say whether the file is complete. It certainly seems from the material I saw that there is a pretty full account of what happened but there may be more material, for which we continue to search. Whether it is there to be found now, I do not know.

Is that in addition to what has already been handed over to her?

Mr. Drew Harris

There have been two releases of information, one of which was in 2006. Subsequent releases, as in 2017, as referred to, have been subject to data protection rules and redactions relate to third-party names.

As already stated, Ms Moynihan retired from the Garda on grounds of ill health and received a reduced pension. My party and I strongly feel she deserves a full pension as well as an ex gratia payment for the damage done to her by An Garda Síochána. Would Mr. Harris support the payment of a full pension and an ex gratia payment?

Mr. Drew Harris

These are matters that are subject to negotiation with her solicitor. I wish to reserve my position because we have not even have the initial exchange of letters yet.

I have a couple of questions on a separate matter. Mr. Harris referred to the 60th anniversary of women being admitted to An Garda Síochána. Has he carried out an audit of the percentage of female members at the various levels and ranks within the organisation?

Mr. Drew Harris

Yes, that is known. If I had my Policing Authority folder, I would have information right in front of me. We have it and I can provide it by way of written response. The information is monitored constantly and we provide it to the Policing Authority monthly.

I would appreciate it if that information could be sent to the committee.

Mr. Drew Harris


What measures are taken within An Garda to encourage women to seek promotion?

Mr. Drew Harris

From our cultural audit, there is a sense that promotion competitions and competitions for specialisms were rife with a sense of favouritism or associated with certain circles or cliques. We want to break that down. We will do that with the new approach to both promotion and competitions for specialisms. We want to be sure our competitions are fair. Specifically in respect of female members applying for promotion, the figures show we have good representation, examples being at assistant commissioner and chief superintendent levels. There are plenty of role models within the organisation. We are, however, looking towards a woman garda network to provide peer support for a female Garda members. That has been successful in other policing organisations in terms of mentoring and guidance and providing peer support, particularly when moving through specialisms or going for promotion. That is something we seek to do as we approach the 60th anniversary.

I am very happy to hear that. There is gender pay gap legislation making its way down the tracks. Those kinds of audits are audits that large organisations such as the Garda should be doing. I am glad to hear the Garda is setting up the network. It should be borne in mind that women often need to be asked to put themselves forward. We do not naturally put ourselves forward for promotion a lot of the time. I ask Mr. Harris to bear that in mind going through this process.

I thank the Commissioner for coming before the committee. At the first meeting he attended, which I also attended, one of the issues I raised was the quality of notifications after the use of Tasers and related incidents. I understand from reports today that it is going to be an automatic process, or something like that. I acknowledge this is positive. I do not really need a response on this but I just ask Mr. Harris to keep an eye on it. He might respond to my next question, if he wishes.

At various committee meetings with Garda Commissioners, a variety of issues have arisen, including Garda reform and penalty points. Quite clearly, the biggest issue facing the Garda, and one of the biggest facing our society today, is that of serious and organised crime. I acknowledge that much of what the Garda has achieved in recent times has been very commendable. It has exhibited great courage and has evolved great resourcefulness but organised crime is still a major issue. There is considerable concern, not just in Drogheda, where issues arose in the past few days. There have been six gangland murders since the start of the year. Significant issues arose in Longford. I recognise that the Garda is doing all it can but it seems it is still very much stretched. There has been a response regarding Coolock and Drogheda but in both cases, and in most stations, the station numbers were down by comparison with a few years previously. From 2014, Coolock station has had 14 fewer full-time gardaí since 2011. It is not just my assessment. The GRA and AGSI have stated the Garda is behind other police forces in terms of numbers, equipment and resources. Ireland's ratio of police to civilians is well below the European average. Is the Commissioner confident he will reach the target of 15,000 sworn members? Does he not believe the organisation should aim a bit higher, taking into account the significant shortfall in community policing? Could it aim for 16,000, or more? If not, what resources are required? I understand it is difficult for a Commissioner always to state publicly what is needed from the Minister or Oireachtas. What does An Garda Síochána need to tackle this scourge?

Mr. Drew Harris

There are a couple of aspects to that. With regard to resources overall in the Dublin metropolitan region, DMR, they are stretched. Even at the last passing-out parade, almost 130 from the class went to various stations in the DMR. In part, the DMR is the area with the most churn. It feeds the national units also. It suffers owing to proximity with the national units. It is just a particular characteristic of it. We recognise, however, that the rural regions are pretty strong and that their numbers are up to where they were in 2011. We have to increase the DMR number to its previous strength also.

On serious and organised crime, we have a good and well-oiled response when these matters flare up. At all times, proactive operations are ongoing. The Deputy will have seen that not a week goes by without us having a significant success in the recovery of firearms or the recovery of large amounts of drugs. That gives a scale of the drug business in Ireland.

Beyond that, I refer to the use of our resources as we build up our numbers to 15,000. We will get to that figure. It will take us until the end of 2021 to be realistic about how many people we can recruit over that period along with the cessations we will have. We need to look to what technology can do in increasing our efficiency and our effectiveness, and that is why we are pleased to see the introduction of measures such as body-worn video. It often takes the heat out of incidents on the street in the first place. It can help with resolving complaints, it can provide good evidence for court proceedings, and it can speed up criminal justice procedures.

On the use of automatic number plate recognition, ANPR, it can be a really effective tool for us because much of the crime we see involves vehicles which are ringer vehicles. They are stolen vehicles which give the identity of a legitimate vehicle and they are then used for crime for a period of six or seven weeks. That will give us a good insight into that as well as the movement of travelling criminals throughout our road network. We welcome that but there is an investment in both body-worn video and ANPR.

We also have processes of our own ongoing. The investigation management system is being brought in, which will provide us with a far greater insight as investigations are ongoing. We can then join up accounts and investigations and we can have a cross-district and a cross-division response to the criminality of certain groups. That is difficult at the moment when we have such a paper-based process. That digitisation will make a difference and it will free us up from some of our bureaucracy and paper-bound administration.

There is a lot happening in the growth of the organisation and in the systems within the organisation. The Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland talks to both of those matters. It is not just about our strength but how we use that strength, and it is not just the capacity of the organisation but the capability that we wish to unlock within that. Digitisation is part of that. The new divisional structure is the second part of that in freeing up our people from administration, freeing up our police commanders for police work and making our gardaí more responsive to local community needs.

It is an exciting time and a time of huge endeavour. There is much to be optimistic about. At the same time, when it comes to recruitment we are pretty much at saturation point in the amount of new staff we can bring in. We have brought in a lot of recruits who are now probationers and are working their way through probation. The additional supervision has been important in receiving them into the organisation and making sure they have the proper mentoring and training, but 800 recruits per annum is the maximum we can run at in our training capacity and in the capacity of the divisions to receive them. There are many positives but the Deputy is right that we can always ask for more. However, I would want to see these reforms and the digitisation start to get traction before I would say we need to bounce up, as it were, to 16,000 members.

I take that on board. The Commissioner mentions a full capacity of 800 recruits but is it 600 this year?

Mr. Drew Harris


While I recognise the points about technology, my experience from talking to the community is that they want visibility. They want to see patrols, bicycle patrols and all of that. That needs gardaí and we need to be more ambitious in the numbers of gardaí.

To move on to another issue, a case collapsed on 26 March that was taken against a Garda civilian employee, Lynn Margiotta, and her brother Tony Margiotta, who is a GP. This was at the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court. She had been accused of deducing and presenting fraudulent instruments in the form of sick notes in 2014. As I said, the case collapsed, but as I understand it, she was arrested, not provided with a solicitor, and her wages were stopped in 2015 and were not restored. She was arrested for a second time in September 2018. Ultimately, this case collapsed. She was sick insofar as any of the documentation of the reports that have been in the media suggest. It seems very heavy handed and excessive. Will the Commissioner comment on the case? It does not seem to have been well handled by the Garda and it seems to have been a very traumatic experience for that family. It was probably deeply unfair as well.

Mr. Drew Harris

As of two weeks ago, the Policing Authority referred this matter to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, GSOC. It has been accepted by GSOC as an investigation and it is dealing with that as a complaint investigation. An investigation is under way by GSOC. In some ways, that inhibits some of what I might say about that because GSOC has to come to its view on this matter. In similar cases where we have investigated members of the organisation, be it Garda members or Garda staff, we apply the law in a fair and equitable manner and consideration is taken of the approach that should happen. At the same time, if we are investigating crime, we are charged with following the processes to obtain evidence, and part of that is interview after caution, arrest, and interview after caution, including search etc. These are the processes we will apply in any of these investigations we are conducting.

Is the Commissioner's position that he cannot make any specific comment on the case? Unfortunately, the investigation could take three or four years.

Mr. Drew Harris

I am nervous about making a comment on it because this could be a matter that is then subject to recommendation by GSOC in respect of discipline. It is difficult for me to get to a fixed public position when I am effectively awaiting a conclusion from GSOC on its enquiry into this matter.

Very well. I hope that progresses as quickly as possible. If the reports are accurate, I hope the Commissioner will meet Ms Margiotta after the process is complete to hear the outcome of it.

On GSOC, the Commissioner recently announced his intention to establish an anti-corruption unit. That is welcome. At that stage, the question was put to the Commissioner by my colleague, Deputy Cullinane, whether he had consulted GSOC. At the time, the Commissioner said he had not done so. That struck me as irregular and, to be blunt, I do not agree the position that GSOC would not have been consulted, given its remit. I will ask the question in any event. Has the Commissioner consulted GSOC since then on how the Garda anti-corruption unit would relate to GSOC and what the division of labour would be?

Mr. Drew Harris

There is no conflict between the Garda and GSOC. I provided a presentation to the Policing Authority today on the anti-corruption unit and I am very happy to provide a presentation on it to the committee as well. The purpose of the ant-corruption unit is directed at corruption in its widest sense. It is not just directed on the discovery of criminal behaviour. It is also directed on general behaviour and a sense of fairness and impartiality in members and staff going about their duties. I would say, as Commissioner, that I have a responsibility to make sure that the service we provide is one which the people can trust. They must know that the members and staff of An Garda Síochána are individuals of integrity and honesty in their behaviour. That is not a function of GSOC. It is a function of leadership on my part and on the part of everybody of supervisory responsibility in the organisation. We must set the standards required.

Deterrence and prevention are better than detection. There are particular areas on which we can provide advice, and anti-corruption would do that. That would be in the areas of conflicts of interest, inappropriate relationships, sharing of data, excessive hospitality, and the receipt of perks.

These are all areas for which we can write policy and be in a position to provide guidance to the organisation.

With cause drug testing takes place if there is information that suggests drug testing should take place. Random drug testing is done in those areas of the organisation that are high risk, such as driving high performance vehicles or carrying a firearm in the course of duties. These are areas where drug testing is good practice.

There are other issues, such as one place receiving all intelligence or information that might suggest wrongdoing by a member of staff or members of An Garda Síochána and having a single point of contact to deal with GSOC. There are also the learnings from complaints and a complaints reduction strategy. There is also the sharing of information with GSOC to ensure we pick up on all behaviour that falls beneath the high standards we accept.

This is far more about us as an organisation being proactive, in that we have set high standards, we will make sure they are communicated and understood, and then we will enforce them, as opposed to being in competition with GSOC or cutting across its responsibilities in any way. I do not see this. I see it as complementary. I also think it would be very unwise for me not to do something like this. The health of the organisation in terms of its honesty and integrity lies within my responsibility and I should be doing something about it.

As I said, it is great but it seems there is a similarity to elements of GSOC.

Mr. Drew Harris

There is not. I think-----

I am not saying there is a conflict either. Surely there are areas of potential interest in the middle where an investigation might be more appropriate through GSOC. Would it not be worth having a chat with GSOC to see how this initiative relates to what it does and how the two bodies can co-operate? That is all I am asking.

Mr. Drew Harris

What I am following through on is the report of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland that envisages a new organisation after GSOC. What investigations it takes on have yet to be decided and will be a matter of Government policy and the legislation that will follow. I introduced it to the Policing Authority. It is less about TV drama and more about the everyday running of an organisation that has extraordinary powers and extraordinary reach into people's lives, making sure the high standards of behaviour are complied with, and being proactive in looking for wrongdoing. That is a management and leadership responsibility on my part. I do not think I can outsource it to an outside body. I am not sure an outside body would have access to all of the levers I can have as the Commissioner. My responsibility is to develop them if there is a new Garda Síochána Act.

The Commissioner is misunderstanding me. Really I am not being critical. I just think there would be value in the exercise.

In response to a recent parliamentary question, the Minister for Justice and Equality confirmed protective services units have been established in ten Garda divisions, with 19 to go. I would have said this is a bit behind schedule. The pilot phase included the areas of Dublin metropolitan region west, Cork city and Louth, followed by another six areas, namely, Dublin metropolitan region south central, Waterford, Kerry, Carlow-Kilkenny, Limerick and Galway. Am I right in saying just one additional unit has been delivered so far in 2019? That being the case, can we be confident the other 19 will be established by the end of the year?

Mr. Drew Harris

I will hand over to Mr. Twomey, who has the detail on the implementation plan for the rest of 2019. It is our intention to meet the policing plan target of full implementation in this calendar year.

Mr. John Twomey

We have three dates, which are August, September and December, for when the rest of the divisions will be introduced. We are on target to meet all of them. We are happy we will meet our commitments and targets in the policing plan and that by the end of the year we will have a protective service unit in every Garda division. A lot of work has been done on scoping, resourcing, accommodation, the provision of resources and training. We are confident we will meet the targets.

To follow on from this, do the ten units established to date have the full personnel complement? What is the status of their accommodation? Are they fully equipped with office space? Can we be confident the remaining units will have full staff complements and the necessary accommodation by the end of the year or early next year?

Mr. John Twomey

The simple straightforward answer to the question is "Yes" but all of these issues are kept under review. We do not have the same number of personnel in every unit in every division in the country because the demand varies. The demand for the number of personnel in one division is different from that of another. We did an assessment at the outset as to what demand should be and we are providing resources to address this and meet that demand. This will be kept under constant and ongoing review. In one Garda division we may have twice what we have in another division and this will continue. We will continue to assess it, and where we need additional resources, we will provide them. All of this takes time and is iterative. We have accommodation and work is being done to improve it and to provide additional accommodation. It is a process that will take time. In particular with regard to resources, it is demand led.

It is an important initiative and I hope it leads to ongoing professionalisation in dealing with crime. At the first committee meeting he attended, the Commissioner said the number of gardaí who had signed up to the code of ethics was approximately 40%. Where is that now?

To return to the issue of crime, I had an exchange with the Minister for Justice and Equality today and I will hand the Commissioner correspondence at the end of the meeting. Since it reopened, the allocation of Templemore recruits received by Cork divisions is 2.4%. That is very low for a city that has many challenges and a growing population. It might not have had the same headline issues regarding gangland crime but there is violent crime, a lot of property crime and public order issues. As an example, despite the fact that it rained on bonfire night last Sunday, there were a lot of disturbances. To be frank, some of the response times were poor despite the best efforts of gardaí in the areas. It was a busy night and they were stretched. I am not sure Cork has had a fair shake, so to speak, since 2014, with 2.4% of 2,800 recruits. A bit like the Dublin metropolitan region with its challenges, these recruits have been subsumed into specialist units in Cork city division, which has meant the core units are nowhere near their full strength. There are stations that are down 12 since 2014. I will hand correspondence to the Commissioner at the end of the meeting and he might respond to me afterwards.

With regard to the welfare scheme, some gardaí joined on the basis they might be able to stay near their families. Some of the most recent complement that came out of Templemore-----

Mr. Drew Harris

They went to Dublin.

The Commissioner is following what I am saying. I am not sure of the terminology for it. Some people made life decisions on the strength of it and are quite frustrated and are considering whether they can continue in that position.

Whether that is Deputy Ó Laoghaire's final question or not-----

-----this is the Commissioner's final reply to him.

Mr. Drew Harris

If I may, I will respond in writing to the point regarding the strength of the Cork division because it is one of the pilot divisions. I want to answer the Deputy in the context of the new divisional model being rolled out in the division. We have specifically attempted to free up Garda resources there. Regarding the code of ethics, we have undertaken to supply to the Policing Authority, by 17 July, validated figures of where we are with the code of ethics signatures. Signatures are in the order of about 80% but we want to get to a more precise figure and then to the action plan for increasing that further.

Turning to the issue of where people are assigned after they finish training in Templemore, there is also the matter of the organisation and its operational needs. One of the realities for anyone who joins An Garda Síochána is that we are a national service. One is throwing one's hat in the ring and there is a chance that one may be required to serve somewhere which is not within travelling distance of one's current residence. I did hear the radio interview to which reference was made. When I was down at that particular passing-out parade, however, that issue seemed to have dissipated within that particular class. There was no one who had reportedly left the training because of where the station was to which they had been subsequently assigned.

I thank the Commissioner.

I thank the Commissioner very much indeed. I call Deputy Jack Chambers.

I welcome the Commissioner and his team. My first question concerns the serious gangland issues in Dublin, particularly in my own area of west Dublin in Blanchardstown and beyond, as well as in Coolock . The presence of the armed support unit is significant and welcome in helping local gardaí in the work they are doing. They are doing an excellent job in what is a difficult situation because of this gangland issue. Is the Commissioner satisfied that the size of the present armed support unit is sufficient for future needs? Has he had discussions with the Department of Justice and Equality regarding expanding the unit in the context of the growing levels of violent crime witnessed in Longford, Drogheda and parts of Dublin? There is great demand for the armed support unit. It is needed and intervenes at particular times. Is there a need, however, to plan for its use in a greater and more substantive way in future? What are the Commissioner's thoughts on that matter?

Mr. Drew Harris

We keep the scale of all of our operational units under review at all times. The Deputy is correct that the armed support unit is fully deployed and engaged in Dublin, in particular. We do have plans to expand its size further. I think the Department would probably judge that as being an operational matter for myself and the senior team to make a call upon. It would then support us in doing that on the basis of our professional judgment of the demand. I ask Mr. Twomey to comment on the specific plans for the extension. We do have a plan to extend the use of the armed support unit to Cavan and the strength of the unit in Dublin is also set to increase.

Mr. John Twomey

We need to remember one thing about the operation of the armed support unit in Dublin. It is supplemented by the national units based at Harcourt Terrace Garda station. The special detective unit and the emergency response unit provide dedicated resources in support and that support is provided around the country. As the Commissioner stated, there is a work plan and timeline in place to extend and increase the resources available to the armed support units in all of the regions. A 24-7 presence will be provided.

Additional resources will also be provided in the southern region to Cork and Limerick. We had one passing-out parade in May from where additional resources were provided. Those additional resources, including cars, firearms and training, will continue to be provided between now and the end of this year and the first quarter of next year. There is considerable investment at the moment and what is proposed is regarded as meeting existing demand. We keep this under ongoing review and continual assessment. If there is a need for additional resources, those are provided.

That is welcome. I have spoken to people in the communities in the middle of the areas affected by the gangland feud. The presence of the armed support unit, as well as the regular units, and the visibility of the issue helps the situation. The problem occurs when things are relaxed to an extent. There is a visibility issue when the armed support unit withdraws from certain areas and that puts people in those communities under pressure and stress. The planned expansion is very welcome.

Another linked issue is the epidemic of drugs and the connected gangland consequences. Is the Commissioner satisfied with the number of drugs units that we have? There seems to be a deficit in parts of Dublin and units are having to spill over between areas and districts. What are the Commissioner's plans to expand the drugs units? There is clearly a major drugs problem. Deputy O'Callaghan mentioned earlier that many people do not at first connect their own behaviour with the spraying of bullets around the city. That is a major issue and probably goes beyond the remit of the Commissioner. These are probably people who are criticising the lack of Garda visibility and the severity of the gangland situation. At the same time these are people who indulge in ongoing drug use. That is the hypocrisy and contradiction that we have but that is aside from the responsibility of the Commissioner.

Regarding the drugs issue, there has been a massive increase in the consumption of drugs. That is evident on the streets of Dublin city centre and in the suburbs. An EU report recognised that and stated that Ireland has one of the highest growth levels of drugs intake. How is An Garda Síochána responding to that issue, in particular to the gangland aspect? I also refer to the middle tier and we have seen how the "Uberisation" of drugs has put drug dealing in a different space. What is the technological response from the Garda? It is not only a matter of street dealing any more. How can the Garda penetrate the networks and deal with the technology that is now involved in modern drug dealing? How do the drug units respond to that at the local and regional levels?

Mr. Drew Harris

There were many questions in that last contribution. Such a severe crime problem requires a full organisational response and it gets that. We have to put pressure on the local markets and the intermediate market regarding the movement of significant amounts of drugs and on international trafficking. There definitely are different layers involved. There is a national and international layer, which sees good co-operation with our partners in law enforcement throughout the world. At the national level, our national units and the local drug units do terrific work in chasing down dealers and making major seizures of drugs.

The performance in quarter one in 2019 compared to that in 2018, however, shows a 16% uplift in the number of controlled drugs offences. By and large, though, that is the result of proactive work by An Garda Síochána in making seizures ranging in size from small single amounts of drugs for single use right up to big seizures. As I stated earlier, hardly a week goes by when we do not have a major seizure of drugs, money or some of the weapons associated with such offences. We are very conscious of this almost "Uberisation", or whatever expression we want to use, of the delivery of drugs, especially in the context of the night-time economy and the specific operations we can put in place to address that. I refer to surveillance but also other preventative operations as well. We do not underestimate the extent of the drugs problem or the underlying crime problems that it drives, including violent crime and other crimes. Some addicts are driven to crimes of acquisition to get the money to pay for a drugs habit.

I do not know whether there is an overall criminal justice response on its own to this. There is a bit about how addicts are treated and that is a health problem. I sometimes wonder about some of the coverage of our vicious feuds. There seems to be an air of glamorisation around the characters involved and the violence visited upon people. It almost makes it seem as if it is some other world but it is happening in this city and people are losing their lives, suffering dreadful injury or living lives of intimidation because of it. There is a trail of human misery that is not properly picked up in some of the coverage I read.

I agree. I also agree that the rate of addiction is very much a health issue. Is An Garda Síochána doing anything to penetrate the modern technology we have? Historically, it may have deployed 20 gardaí in a particular area to monitor and try to address the cell structures relating to drug dealing and build a picture. How is it trying to penetrate the modern network, which is very much IT-driven? What is being done at European level? It is not just an issue in Ireland but in all countries. The "Uberisation" of it is a significant problem for the criminal justice system going forward in that a lot of what is happening is beyond the reach of An Garda Síochána's public interface.

Mr. Drew Harris

Technology is advancing and given the financial resources being brought to bear by some of these crime gangs, they take advantage of that. As the Deputy noted, it is not just about a national response. It requires a European and international response in terms of law enforcement and what it might do. I feel a bit inhibited because if I talk any more about it, it will get me into operational, tactical stuff but I assure the Deputy that this is a live issue that is of ongoing concern. This also needs to ingenuity in terms of what our response should be. Sometimes traditional policing methods unpick some of this technology as well.

There has been some public commentary about insurance fraud and whether the Commissioner would prefer to deal with it at a local level within different divisions rather than through a national unit. What are his thoughts on that?

Mr. Drew Harris

The response, which lies in co-ordination with our national economic crime bureau, is one where we have invested heavily in fraud investigation and fraud investigators throughout the country in every division. Where I would look to the insurance industry in terms of support is in respect of the information it is able to provide us with.

Regarding the offer of assistance, which, in effect, was to form a national squad, we would do better if we looked to the information we had and were able to apply analytical expertise to that. It involves analysts in terms of trying to find the patterns of offending, individuals and vehicles and what the motor insurance industry can do in respect of that. I know there are other forms of insurance fraud beyond the car accident industry that are also significant crimes in terms of the money lost by insurance companies.

In respect of motor insurance, I point to our investigation management system. As we roll this out, we will have greater insight into all the investigations that members of An Garda Síochána take on. This will include road traffic collisions that are being investigated and will tell us about people and vehicles that are exceptionally unlucky and are constantly in accidents. That sort of information will give us the starting point for more thorough investigations. It should be borne in mind that we can also apply tactics from the Criminal Assets Bureau to this. We have a localised element to the CAB that we are seeking to promote. It is not that this is not a priority or that we are seeking to in any way down play it. I just feel that tactically, our response must be somewhat different from having a squad in the centre. This is about information, understanding and analysis of that information and driving lessons from that, which gives us information to start proactive investigations. We have set this out on a number of occasions. The chief superintendent in charge of the economic crime bureau regularly meets with the insurance industry and set out this case to it.

There has been a reduction in the overtime budget this year compared to last year. There have been mixed views on that in the context of gangland issues in Dublin and other parts of the country. Is the Commissioner satisfied that the overtime budget allocated for this year is sufficient or does he think he will need a Supplementary Estimate to manage the issues being experienced throughout the country? Could he provide an update on that?

Mr. Drew Harris

The budget is the same as last year. What we have set out to do is, and what my responsibility as Accounting Officer is, is to bring our budget in on the line as opposed to spending a budget with the hope that there may be a Supplementary Estimate. I am not making that assumption. My expectation is that I will stay within budget. We want our overtime to be operationally focused. Too much of our overtime is spent in supporting functions that derive from procedures and could be subject to some review. We spend a lot of overtime supporting other functions that are not our central operational functions. I would rather have the money for operations in Coolock and operations countering serious and organised crime. I would feel far better about how I spend the €95 million budget if I could apply that to what I see as the pressing operational matters that impact on us and the quality of life of people in what are sometimes distressed communities.

Has that happened this year? Is An Garda Síochána under or over budget?

Mr. Drew Harris

Our budget is under pressure. There is a slight overspend and we must apply pretty rigorous supervision and control of it so we stay within budget. It requires of me and the rest of the senior team new approaches to some of our deployments and a revisiting of the way we manage some events. That is ongoing. We must constantly look at how we use our resources because our resources are too precious to just keep on doing things the way we have always done them. We must think of new ways of working so we can apply ourselves to pressing policing issues.

There has been an increase in the general training budget under Garda reform. What continuous professional development is provided to gardaí in training and updates, for example, in regard to legislative changes or trying to pursue a prosecution? I am interested in this.

Mr. Joseph Nugent

I guess a lot of our effort has naturally been focused on the large intake of staff and members that is occurring at the moment and the major system deployment we must roll out. That is where the priority of our budget has had to focus. It has been around the commitments we made in our policing plan and our commitments under the police service of the future. Notwithstanding that, there are continuous professional development arrangements in place in all divisions around the country. There are schools and staff in place where the kind of training described by the Deputy is delivered. Clearly, we can do more and that is something on which we will keep an eye over the coming period.

We expect to advertise for the position of an expert director in learning and development very shortly, to pull some of those threads together and assist us in looking at what the norm is in industry in delivering that type of training. We will learn many lessons from that.

I have two more questions. On the previous occasion Mr. Twomey was before this committee, he provided information about the real-time pilot scheme. Are there any further updates on that, or is it being rolled out on a broader scale? It was being piloted in Limerick, where real-time information was submitted at the scene rather than being submitted into the PULSE system on returning to the station.

Finally, have any audits of response times been conducted? It is a basic issue but I often hear about people ringing stations and not being able to get through. Is An Garda Síochána considering changing its phone systems, at an organisational level, in order that people get a response when they ring, and there is some follow through? This is do with basic management systems. That is sometimes people's only criticism, albeit a small one, but it is their story of their interaction with the Garda. It is not an accurate or genuine reflection of the work people do, but it should be examined as well. Is Garda management looking into that?

Mr. John Twomey

Regarding the Deputy's first question, I spoke previously about the mobility project which was under pilot in Limerick. It has now come to the end of that phase and we aim to deploy 2,000 mobile phones before the end of the year. We have looked at a number of technologies, the various elements of which I alluded to previously, which will streamline and improve both the quality and speed of information our people have on the ground so they can access real-time information at the point in time they need it most. We have developed a number of mechanisms for them to commence prosecutions at the side of the road as opposed to bringing them back to the station. The process will now be technical and mobile as opposed to the current system, which is paper-based and relies on gardaí coming back to the station. Some 2,000 mobile phones will be deployed between now and the end of the year.

Response times are dependent on a call-aided dispatch, CAD, system, which we did not previously have across the entire country. However, we have recently introduced it to deal with emergency calls for services and we now have it in every Garda region, including Cork, Waterford, Galway, and Dublin. That system gives us the ability to provide a response time for any calls for service that are recorded and come in through the emergency call answering service, ECAS. It is slightly more developed in the Dublin metropolitan region, DMR, and we look at our response times there. Calls are classified into four categories: emergency, priority one, priority two, and priority three. In accordance with our policing plan, we have targets and we want a commitment that we will respond to all emergency calls and priority one calls within a 15-minute timeline. We measure that and look at it quarterly, or more frequently if necessary.

As the CAD system develops and is extended nationally, we will have more information available to us in that area. The CAD system is an important development because we now have an electronic record of all calls coming into us, as well as response times, and the link to the response to the community. In time, we can begin to provide information on how many calls to the service we receive, how many of them are related to crimes or non-crimes, and our response times. That kind of information enables us to make more intelligent and effective use of the resources we have. From a preventative perspective, we can deploy resources in advance of calls, but we can also use it to create a roster and ensure we have people in the right places at the right times. Many opportunities will come out as that information becomes more comprehensive.

I thank the witnesses and Deputy Chambers. Senator Ó Donnghaile is next. I overlooked Senator Conway's earlier indication, so I will have to take him before Senator Kieran O'Donnell. He might have been counting on coming after Senator Ó Donnghaile, so I am just explaining that.

I call Senator Ó Donnghaile, to be followed by Senator Conway.

I thank the Commissioner and his colleagues for their presentations. The Commissioner will recall that when he first appeared before this committee in October of last year, I raised the issue of the late Denis Donaldson's journal, its current status, and the request by his family that it be returned to them. In response, he said:

The specific point the Senator raises has been raised in the correspondence from the family's solicitors. It is a live issue and we will have a response quickly.

I do not intend to get into the status of the evidential value of the journal, or the change in that status since the Commissioner's first and subsequent appearance before this committee. However, has he corresponded with Denis Donaldson's family and their solicitors regarding the journal?

Mr. Drew Harris

I have not. I understand that a letter has been prepared, based on where we are in the legal process in this jurisdiction, which I will communicate directly to the solicitor.

The Commissioner can understand my scepticism, given that he gave me that commitment in October of last year. He may want to elaborate on what the delay has been, but I offer him the opportunity to give us definitive assurance that the family or their legal representatives will finally receive correspondence from the Commissioner on this very important matter, so that I do not have to ask him again at this committee.

Mr. Drew Harris

I can absolutely give that assurance. I have inquired into this matter, both in relation to the investigation being led by the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland and the information and support we have provided there, as well as the status of our own murder investigation. Having done that, I am now in a position to write to the solicitor and I have sought legal advice on the correspondence I should enter into. I understand it is almost finalised and when it is, which will be very shortly, I will correspond. I had hoped to have resolved this issue before this meeting but I was unfortunately unable to do so.

I thank the Commissioner, because I am anxious to see this exchange between him and the legal team take place, as opposed to me having to raise it with him at these meetings. I have a few questions, which the Commissioner might not be able to go too deep into. I want to take the first as a stand-alone question and I will group the rest. Can the Commissioner give us an indication of the status of the case regarding gardaí arrested in the recent corruption probe?

Mr. Drew Harris

The garda or gardaí?

Mr. Drew Harris

That is a live and ongoing investigation, which carries on. As the Senator will expect, we are going through the evidential support for that, and I received an update on it only last week. It would be wrong for me to go into detail on that, but I am satisfied with the progress that has been made.

I appreciate that and thank the Commissioner for the update.

Other colleagues have mentioned Majella Moynihan, and have rightly referred to the appalling treatment she endured in the 1980s. The Commissioner has apologised to her, which is an appropriate and positive move. Has he examined whether there are other cases similar to Majella Moynihan's? Is that something the Garda is investigating internally?

My other question relates to recent public commentary and concern in respect of cybercrime, and the resourcing of cybercrime.

Does the Commissioner believe the Garda has the requisite equipment and resources to tackle cybercrime properly? Given that there has been so much cybercrime evidence or child sexual abuse material held in the cloud or by way of remote storage, is there a need for additional powers to be provided to the Garda by way of legislation to facilitate the seizure of such data by way of the production and preservation orders outlined in the Budapest Convention?

Mr. Drew Harris

In respect of Majella Moynihan, we are actively looking for similar cases. Given that this happened in the first place and given the extraordinary approach that was taken to this particular case, one cannot consider that it is a single, stand-alone example. I do not have a definitive number because that requires a search of records going back to 1959. Another aspect of this was that male Garda members were also subject to disciplinary boards of inquiry for, in effect, getting unmarried girls pregnant. As such, there is a second element of this completely extraordinary tale. It will be difficult for us to be entirely definitive on the figures simply because these matters were not dealt with uniformly. That is apparent even when looking at the case in front of us in comparison to other records we hold. There appears to be a limited number but at this point in time, bearing in mind this only broke Saturday week ago, it is difficult to be definitive. I am not sure we will get to a position where we can point to the names of other women who were subject to some form of disciplinary inquiry.

To be fair, I do not expect the Commissioner to be definitive in that regard. He has touched on it and it is fair to say he expects other instances to come up and to have to deal with similar cases to that of Ms Moynihan.

Mr. Drew Harris

Undoubtedly, there is a small number of similar cases but that is not to say that some individual may not emerge of whom we do not currently have a record.

We can move to cybercrime.

Mr. Drew Harris

Can I prepare a written response to that, please?

Mr. Drew Harris

It comes down to resources and I am not familiar enough with the convention to provide an authoritative answer here.

That is fair enough.

I ask the Commissioner to direct the response to the clerk of the committee for circulation to all members.

I have two final questions. The first is very succinct and it is to ask if the Commissioner is familiar with the operation of the mobile property register operated by the police in Britain and whether he would consider such a scheme in this State. Finally, there is quite a bit of detail in the following. It is to ask the Commission about the arrest figures for Operation Thor. These figures were obtained by my colleague, Deputy Ó Laoghaire, from the Minister for Justice and Equality and they are extraordinarily high. I will give the Commissioner some of them as they appear before me in a reply from the Minister very recently. It states that under Operation Thor, there were 10,024 arrests between 2 November 2015 and 7 May 2019. This represents an average of eight arrests every day over the past three and a half years, or one arrest every three hours. I am sure Deputy Munster would like to see similar statistics for her own constituency. There have also been 11,554 charges brought under the operation to date for a range of offences including burglary, handling of stolen property, possession of firearms and drug offences. According to Garda statistics, there have been 34,461 searches, 96,997 intelligence reports and over 356,000 patrols over the same period. Garda figures further show that there have been almost 300,000 checkpoints since the operation started, which is an average of approximately 158 every day. What is the Commissioner's view on that? The figures as quoted in the reply seem extraordinarily high.

Mr. Drew Harris

Those are our national figures for that period. Even if I take the arrest figures, I must set them in the context that in the same period there were 260,000 other arrest-type incidents. Operation Thor is an operation to counter burglary certainly but also to counter criminality on the road. In some ways, I am satisfied with those figures, albeit given the extended period, I might have expected them to be a little higher. In the context of 260,000 other arrests, it shows the level of activity undertaken by An Garda Síochána in respect of enforcement. We are an organisation that deals with approximately 1 million incidents or reports per annum. As such, a huge amount of work is done. Mr. Twomey has more of the detail on that but we are aware of the parliamentary question and we double-checked the figures.

That was my next question.

Mr. Drew Harris

We are content with those figures and the statistical return for Operation Thor. It is a small snapshot of the overall enforcement activity of An Garda Síochána.

The Senator asked another question.

It was on a mobile property register.

Mr. Drew Harris

I am not aware of that.

It may be something on which the Commissioner can come back to me in writing.

Mr. Drew Harris


Like colleagues, I welcome the Commissioner and his senior management team to the committee this evening and thank them for facilitating the committee at relatively short notice. As other colleagues have, I start with the Majella Moynihan case. When did the Commissioner become aware of the Majella Moynihan story? While it unfolded publicly last Saturday week in the "Documentary on One" at 2 p.m., when did the Commissioner become aware of it?

Mr. Drew Harris

I became aware on Saturday afternoon. I did not hear the programme but I became aware of the social media on it. In or around teatime, I prepared the response. While I did not know all of the detail on Saturday evening and while I had no prior knowledge of the matter, I gave an immediate response to such a dreadful set of circumstances in the form of an apology.

The Commissioner's response on Saturday evening was appropriate. Was the Commissioner aware of the fact that the "Documentary on One" team had contacted the Garda press office which stated it would not comment on individual cases even though it was a media outlet that was preparing a documentary on the story? That was a number of days, if not a week or two, prior to the broadcast of the documentary.

Mr. Drew Harris

I was not aware of that.

If the Commissioner listens to the documentary, he will heard that the team had contacted the Garda press office and was informed that the Garda press office does not comment on individual cases. Perhaps there is a difficulty in the communication between the press office and the Commissioner. Perhaps the press officer who is in attendance at the committee might like to comment on it.

Mr. Drew Harris

May I invite-----

It is entirely a matter for Mr. McLindon if he would like to come forward to the bench.

It is very important that this is clarified.

Mr. Andrew McLindon

I received no query in relation to Ms Majella Moynihan and the documentary in advance of broadcast. It may be that a query was made a year ago about the documentary, but I can find no record as it stands of contact in the weeks or months preceding the broadcast of the documentary being brought to my attention.

It is clear on the documentary that its makers say they requested comment from An Garda Síochána. I presume that was from the press office because that would be the most appropriate channel for a media outlet to approach the Garda.

We need clarity on this matter because there is an accountability issue involved. The Commissioner will now have to have to look at the channels of communication between the press office and himself. I have no doubt - and I am sure the Commissioner also has no doubt - that further cases will arise. On that matter, is a dedicated senior official or member of the Commissioner's team charged with looking at historical cases?

Mr. Drew Harris

As I have said, our discipline department is going through the files to identify other cases.

When did that process begin?

Mr. Drew Harris

It only commenced after the documentary aired, so it would have been Monday of last week. When we became aware of just how terrible this story was, it immediately became apparent that it was appropriate to respond quickly. If Mr. McLindon and I had any idea of what was going to be covered in this documentary, it would have received the utmost attention.

I have no doubt about that. The discipline department is doing a trawl. We are six or seven days into it. Have any other similar situations or cases been uncovered to date? Have any cases been identified about which the Commissioner is concerned and into which the team is looking and doing further research?

Mr. Drew Harris

There are cases which bear similarities in the sense that they involve unmarried female Garda members. Pregnancies outside of wedlock have been recorded on discipline files.

Have any of the female individuals who raised a flag or raised concern been communicated with as of yet?

Mr. Drew Harris

We have received no communication from anyone else.

Has An Garda Síochána communicated with any of the individuals identified since this process began a week ago last Monday?

Mr. Drew Harris

No, we have not.

Has a timeline been laid out for this? It is of immense public concern. How long will the discipline team's review process take?

Mr. Drew Harris

It is difficult to answer that question because we are looking through digitised records and paper records. The scale of what has to be addressed in respect of digitised records is notorious. The team is weeding through files going back over decades. It is therefore difficult for me to give a timescale for the process. I would say that there are still a number of weeks' work left before we get to a position where we can be certain of the extent to which this happened. I am also fearful that some of these matters were dealt with differently and that the records of how they were dealt with may no longer exist.

I accept that. Has An Garda Síochána established a protocol as to what is to be done if an issue of concern is found in any of these files? What is the protocol from there on in, particularly with respect to communicating with the ladies involved?

Mr. Drew Harris

Neither a protocol nor a series of principles has been established because we are only learning about this issue, which has just been unearthed. We need to see the extent of it so that we can understand it. We can then take it from there.

With regard to a local issue in County Clare, when the Commissioner was before the committee in February I raised the issue of no chief superintendent having been appointed to replace the retired chief superintendent, John Kerin. The Commissioner confirmed at that meeting that an appointment was going to be made imminently, which it was. People in Clare are, however, very concerned at the fact that this chief superintendent is now departing three months after his appointment. Another person, Sean Colleran, has been appointed to the role and I wish him well. I am sure that the Commissioner can appreciate that the people of County Clare are a little concerned because of the chequered history of chief superintendents coming and going - which I appreciate was prior to the Commissioner's appointment. John Kerin was the only chief superintendent of the last five or six to stay for any length of time. The situation is now that a chief superintendent came, stayed for three months, and then left. Since the Commissioner was last before the committee we have had two chief superintendents in Clare. Will the Commissioner assure the people of County Clare that the new chief superintendent who has been appointed will be left in place for long enough to learn about the county and get his feet under the table?

Mr. Drew Harris

In the context of the outturn of the divisional policing model, I can give the Senator assurance in respect of the overall command team but part of the divisional policing model is the reduction in the number of divisions from 28 to 19. This will mean some amalgamations, but we will always seek to keep the command teams consistent and to retain them in place so that they develop a local understanding. One of the vagaries of our system of promoting officers to chief superintendent is that people are appointed from a merit-based list. In some cases they may have to travel great distances. In the long run it is more sustainable to deal with that quickly and to put in place a person who can make a longer-term commitment. We have had to grab that nettle twice but, having done that, I hope the current arrangement will be more static.

Am I correct to assume that the last appointment was always going to be a short-term appointment?

Mr. Drew Harris

Another operational requirement for the chief superintendent role was that the candidate be well suited to the position. That drove decision-making as to the movement. It was not, however, intended that the arrangement would be for such a short term.

Another issue of concern to the people of County Clare is the potential amalgamation of the Clare and Galway districts, to which the Commissioner has just referred. This was one of the recommendations in the report of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland. Can the Commissioner share any further information with the people of Clare in that regard or is the position as it was when we spoke on it last February?

Mr. Drew Harris

As I covered in my presentation, I can assure the people of County Clare that a locally responsive policing service will be in place and that divisions will be, to a great extent, operationally autonomous. These divisions will provide a local service bespoke to the needs of the community. Experienced members will be freed up for operational work and there will be an increased focus on community policing. We are moving members of An Garda Síochána away from administrative functions. That requires the amalgamation of certain divisions. The units delivering the policing service will be bigger, but this will provide efficiency in administration and bureaucracy. These savings in expenditure can be used for operational policing on the ground.

I spoke to the Commissioner privately after the last meeting and he agreed to attend a meeting of the local joint policing committee in Clare. I have briefed the committee, although a new committee is being formed following the local elections. I am fairly confident that I have the authority to extend to the Commissioner an invitation to attend a meeting of the committee in the autumn, if he is still happy to do so.

Mr. Drew Harris

Yes, absolutely. I am very happy to attend meetings of any of the joint policing committees. I have a series of outstanding invitations. It will be a useful opportunity to explain our new divisional policing model and the operating model for An Garda Síochána which will underpin it.

I really want to try to avoid the narrative that we are taking away. We are trying to provide more operational gardaí and a localised, responsive service which is bespoke to the problems of a particular area, while also concentrating on community policing. We are trying to meet a lot of community needs, but, at the same time, I cannot carry the same weight of bureaucracy and management overheads.

I am the longest serving member of the Joint Committee on Justice and Equality, having been a member for eight years. I have to say the Commissioner's engagements with us and his approach to the job he is doing are a breath of fresh air. I wish him well.

Mr. Drew Harris

I thank the Senator.

I thank the Chairman for facilitating me in bringing up the following matters with the Garda Commissioner, Mr. Harris. I am based in Limerick and will be going to the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland. I am basing my questions on policing reform. Chapter 9, page 33, of the report of the commission deals specifically with redeployment from non-core duties. I wrote to the Commissioner on 8 May about a particular issue. There is a new courthouse on Mulgrave Street in Limerick which was opened in March 2018. However, one of the by-products was that up to 22 front-line gardaí were deployed to the courthouse for security duties. The report of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland considers the issue of non-core police duties in chapter 9 which reads:

We believe that there should be no further delay and that action should be taken immediately [...] given the serious pressure on the deployment of visible garda resources on the front line of policing [...] We therefore recommend that all these non-core duties should now be reassigned to other agencies. This should be one of the first priorities in the implementation of the recommendations in this report.

If the Commissioner looks at the implementation element, on page 30 of the report, it considers reassignment from non-core duties in the context of a review in quarter one of this year to identify non-core duties and then, in quarters three and four, in the context of a review of court security. It also mentions that the prison escorts review group is to develop recommendations in the first three quarters of this year to be implemented in quarter four. I know that there was a value for money review of prison escorts. I see the issue of security within the new courthouse on Mulgrave Street in Limerick as more straightforward. The Criminal Courts of Justice were opened in Dublin in 2010 near Heuston Station and G4S, a private security firm, provides security. Obviously, An Garda Síochána is needed for specific duties that are required to be performed within the courts, but they do not require the deployment of up to 22 members of An Garda Síochána. G4S also carries out the majority of security duties in the Four Courts. There are two private, well recognised security firms. I am asking the Commissioner for his view on the issue. Is a review process under way? It would make an enormous difference in Limerick. As the Commissioner probably knows, we have a history. We received extra gardaí in 2007 and 2008. It was extremely successful, but things are still bubbling away beneath the surface, yet the number of gardaí in Limerick has reduced during the years. I do not expect all 22 gardaí to be redeployed to front-line duties, but, if some were freed from security duties in the courthouse, it would mean an extra 13, 14 or 15 gardaí on the streets of Limerick. That is what the public and the business community in the city centre and the wider area are looking for. The Commissioner might give me his view. We speak about extra gardaí which we need, but it is also about making the most efficient use of gardaí for front-line duties in the spirit of the report of the Committee on the Future of Policing in Ireland. I await the Commissioner's response.

Mr. Drew Harris

I can give a response now, but I think I should also provide a longer written explanation.

I have taken the opportunity to ask because the Commissioner is before the committee.

Mr. Drew Harris

I agree wholeheartedly with the Senator. Gardaí are too precious a resource to perform a function that could be undertaken successfully by another body. The Senator has mentioned two private providers of that security function, but it is not to say we should abandon the courts because we would not do so.

Mr. Drew Harris

We will obviously be there in connection with different cases. If there is a particular threat, we will obviously be there. That is clear. However, it would free up a considerable portion of our overtime budget to do other police work. We are living within our budget, but a considerable portion of it is spent in performing other, non-core policing roles. I can give the Senator a full written response because this is an important element, but it is also a matter for our partners.

Mr. Drew Harris

We do not volunteer for it. The support we provide is by custom and practice. In effect, it is for other partners to accommodate a change in working procedures. There is already precedent for this, as the Senator outlined.

Mr. Drew Harris

It is a question of delivering the change.

When the new courthouse was opened on Mulgrave Street last year, before we knew it gardaí were providing the security detail. I was surprised considering the precedent set at the new Criminal Courts of Justice in 2010. I want it to be corrected because we need extra gardaí on the streets. I very much welcome the Commissioner's pronouncement in that regard.

I have one final point. I return to chapter 17 of the report of the Committee on the Future of Policing in Ireland on page 61. It considers the district policing model comprising 96 districts and 570 police stations. It reads: "We believe that decisions on the ideal numbers of either districts or stations should be made by the Garda Commissioner". I raise the matter in that context.

While I represent Limerick city, I live in Castletroy. It is a large suburb, one of the biggest, if not the biggest, in Munster. We have a university on our doorstep. The area has a total population of approximately 15,000 which is swelled by 15,000 students. There are also about 18 organisations which employ approximately 4,000 people. That gives a total of approximately 34,000 people and the population of the area is expected to increase to 45,000. Ballincollig is a similar area in Cork. It is one of the divisional policing model pilot areas and has a population of 18,000. Castletroy is quite a distance from Limerick city and strategically located and exposed alongside the motorway which has resulted in burglaries in recent times. I am asking the Commissioner for his view on new Garda stations in specific areas. Can a case be made in that regard? Obviously, policing initiatives and gardaí on the beat are key elements, but certainly in the area in which I live we have a strong, if not a unique, argument in favour of the need for a new Garda station.

Mr. Drew Harris

Undoubtedly, with population growth and the anticipated growth in housing and commerce outside traditional areas in the next five to ten years, there is no doubt that there will be a case for the opening of additional stations, but at present we have enough working parts without my picking at it. As we have a pretty complicated ongoing review of recommendations, I am loath to start another plate spinning.

At the same time, however, I think there is a case. Some areas are set to grow exponentially in the next few years.

Is the Commissioner familiar with Limerick? Does he know it?

Mr. Drew Harris

I have visited it but that is not to say I know it. I am kept informed on the situation there. Mr. John Twomey keeps me right.

Mr. Twomey would know Castletroy well. It is expanding, as a significant number of houses are being built. My question is how one makes a strategic and real case based on metrics and location for an area such as Castletroy that has expanded at what is probably one of the fastest rates of anywhere in the country? Deputy Commissioner Twomey would attest to the fact that it has expanded at an exponential rate.

Mr. Drew Harris

The simple answer to that is that the estate is owned and run by the Office of Public Works and we make a case to it for a new station. I then would be expected to service that from within existing resources. Making a case on whether there should be a new station would depend on more than population. We would have to look at the demand and also the demand on other agencies in the area, as well as some socio-economic factors. We must establish if we can identify a critical need.

What I might do is follow up with a submission to the Commissioner.

Mr. Drew Harris

Perhaps I could respond in writing to the question, through the Chair, on areas that would be topical or useful in terms of building up a business case in respect of any of the scenarios.

We can then take it from there. I thank Mr. Harris.

I thank Senator Kieran O'Donnell and the Commissioner. Deputy Denise Mitchell is very welcome to the committee.

I thank the Chairman for allowing me to speak at today's committee meeting. I have been trying to get a response from the Minister for Justice and Equality on a new Garda station in Clongriffin, in north Dublin. I have been raising the issue for a long time. When I wrote to the Commissioner's office in December I was told there are no plans for such a move. I was told that the current accommodation at Coolock Garda station, which is the district's headquarters, requires development and it is a priority at this time, rather than commencing the prolonged process of building a new Garda station in the Clongriffin area. The Commissioner is very well aware of the horrific killings that have occurred in Darndale and Coolock. He is also aware of the demand for more gardaí in Coolock. The demand for a new Garda station in the Clongriffin area is connected with that. Since the shootings and the escalation in the feud, the Department of Justice and Equality said that An Garda Síochána is in talks with Dublin City Council to secure land for a new Garda station in Clongriffin. Could the Commissioner shed some light on the matter?

Mr. Joseph Nugent

I thank Deputy Mitchell. As somebody who is in the district, albeit not living in the area, I am familiar with the pieces there. First, the capital allocation that has been provided for the estate is exhausted for the next number of years. To set some expectations on what could be done, it would only be in the next round of capital allocations that we would be looking at new stations. I wish to sound a note of caution in that regard.

When is the next round?

Mr. Joseph Nugent

We are committed up until the end of 2021.

There have been discussions between the Garda and Dublin City Council on the possibility of securing access to a site that could become used and that we might be able to use at a point if sufficient capital allocation is provided to us. That would mean that the site was there and we would have access to use it once we had certainty around the funding that would be provided to us on the matter. It is clear that is not something that would be happening today or tomorrow.

In fairness to Dublin City Council, it has been very helpful to us in that regard, and the discussions on the issue were very positive. That said, we cannot make a commitment today that there will be a new station in Clongriffin. We do not have the allocation and it will be a matter for a number of years down the road. What I can say is that it will feature as part of our consideration for change or for an allocation at that time.

I thank Mr. Nugent for his honest answer, because in the wake of the latest feud, many people have come into the area and have talked about a Garda station being opened in Clongriffin and consequently, it is important that the information is out there. The expectation of the community is that a Garda station is on the way. The response I received from the Commissioner's office was that the Garda capital investment programme had not been allocated to the area. Am I correct in saying that we are talking about years down the line before we will have a full, functional Garda station?

Mr. Joseph Nugent

Yes. Even if the site was provided to us tomorrow and the money was made available to us, there would still be a multi-year delivery.

I am very conscious of the extremely cramped conditions in Coolock. The Deputy will appreciate that the members in the area are working in tough conditions in comparison to stations elsewhere. I do not dismiss the fact that gardaí in other areas, Swords for example, have similar issues. There are stations around the country where there are extraordinary pressures and they will feature in the context of our examination of the next round of estate proposals. I just want to be honest about setting expectations. That said, Dublin City Council has been very helpful and having access to a site is a very helpful position for us to be in so that were the funds to be provided to us, we could certainly move far more quickly into such a location than if we had to start looking for a site elsewhere.

I will keep this brief. Could we make a special case to the Department of Justice and Equality to secure extra funding given the level of criminality in the area?

Mr. Drew Harris

I will answer in much the same way, in that if I am to open up new stations I need to set some principles against them. They are big investments and we want to be certain about the operational reasons. The Deputy has set out the particular policing issues we face, which are well known, and the reassurance that would be provided to the community. The operational case needs to be made first and that must be set against a very tight capital allocation. We must bear in mind that there are other draws on that same capital. As it is the same fund that provides us with information technology and vehicles, there are many operational draws on the capital already. As the Department will invite me to make choices in respect of that as well, the case will need to be very convincing.

Just to be helpful, the Commissioner has indicated that he will direct correspondence through the Chair.

Mr. Drew Harris


We will direct any responses received to Deputy Mitchell and Senator Kieran O'Donnell.

I thank the Chairman and have one final question. What additional resources have been invested in Coolock Garda station in recent weeks?

Mr. John Twomey

In the most recent passing out, which was in June, an additional 20 to 25 people went to the Dublin metropolitan region, DMR, north, and a number of those went to Coolock Garda station. I will give the Deputy an exact figure for that specific Garda station, as there is a number of Garda stations in the DMR north area, which stretches from Ballymun and includes Coolock and they got an increase of in the region of 25 gardaí in June. The Commissioner spoke earlier about the additional resources that are being provided to the Dublin metropolitan region, which includes the Coolock area.

I acknowledge the increase in Garda numbers. I am from the area and I regularly see more members of the Garda there. I hope we can get a handle on all that is happening. I thank the witnesses for their response.

How would Mr. Harris describe the level of funding that the Garda Síochána has received this year for the running of the force?

Mr. Drew Harris

I receive a very considerable budget, but An Garda Síochána is a large organisation. I will hope to spend every last red cent of it by the end of the year. However, the budget is tight. Considerable costs are wrapped up in the number of people we employ, the allowances and the overtime. We are a growing organisation and the budget reflects that. This year we will recruit a further 600 Garda staff, but 500 of them will displace Garda members - sworn members - out to operational duties. We are pretty unique in Europe as a growing law-enforcement organisation. While the process of receiving and training so many new people creates its own challenges, it is a good place to be as one can make commitments about additional resources to areas and for important national units, such as economic crime and organised crime.

Mr. Harris has described it as tight. With everything that needs to be done would he describe it as insufficient?

Mr. Drew Harris

It certainly could be more efficient. As I mentioned already, we are called into non-core police roles, which distract us from our core function. Internally we have many things we want to do. We have a big capital expenditure programme on ICT and the digitisation of our work, which will make us more efficient. The introduction of more Garda staff will free up sworn Garda members for operational duty, which will make us more effective. It is not just about the size of the organisation; it is how we use the resources in order that they are most effective. We are somewhat hamstrung in that we do not have the electronic information systems to give us real-rime information about demand and the money we spend. We will be in a better place in two years when we have rolled out the computer-aided despatch system, the investigation management system and our own roster and duty management system, RDMS. The more we can gain information, the more we can understand about how we are spending our money, thereby allowing us to direct it towards our priorities. We need to do much more under the heading of efficiency.

Does the Garda's current funding limit the force in what it would like to do?

Mr. Drew Harris

It is not so much a funding issue as a deployment issue. As the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland flagged up, we need to get back to our core functions. We are called upon too much to support other functions of Government. Often we are the very last public service on the ground and sometimes we are not the appropriate agency to make, for instance a mental health intervention. We are entirely the wrong agency for that. That is all flagged up by the report of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland. We need to get back to more of our core function, much of which is just not crime but quality of life issues, anti-social behaviour issues, dealing with road traffic incidents etc. These are things that are properly our responsibility.

Community policing.

Mr. Drew Harris

Yes, community policing and making a difference in local neighbourhoods. Then I would be more content with where our funding is being spent.

The purpose of my questioning was to gauge Mr. Harris's opinion. The Minister for Justice and Equality said yesterday in the Dáil Chamber that the Garda was in receipt of unprecedented record funding. I was wondering if he was putting bells on that. I thought we would have no woes in any town or country if that was the case.

The Commissioner will be aware of the ongoing feud in Drogheda, which has been going on since July 2018. The latest attacks in recent days have again heightened the sense of fear for the community in Drogheda. There was another shooting last Thursday carried out in broad daylight in a densely populated area. Young children who were out playing were forced to run for cover. Within hours of that incident, two homes were petrol-bombed in retaliation. Last night another home was petrol-bombed. I acknowledge the Garda has been making arrests in recent weeks but after a lull for a while, a real anguish and fear is setting back in. People are looking for 24-hour surveillance on the key figures involved in the feud to curtail their movements and monitor them. They need to be tailed morning, noon and night.

I acknowledge the Garda has made arrests in recent weeks and that the special response units are there. In most cases where there is a shooting or a petrol bomb, from the Garda's point of view - this could well be affected by resources - it is always reactive and never preventive. If such 24-hour surveillance had been in place last Thursday, the residents in the area might have been spared the horror and fear of criminals attempting to assassinate one another on people's doorsteps. We need the resources to be supplied to provide that 24-hour surveillance. When I raised this with the Taoiseach today, he said that the buck stopped with the Commissioner and that it is an operational matter. I thought it was very apt that he was appearing before the committee tonight.

It is very serious and is not subsiding. The fear is that the worst is yet to come. They seem to be acting with impunity. People cannot see anything happening on the ground. Given the length of time this has been going on, it is just pure luck that an innocent passer-by has not been killed. There was an attack outside a shop in a residential area where the perpetrators stood in the middle of the road and opened fire, again in broad daylight. There was no fear that they would be apprehended or were being tailed. They were quite confident that they could escape and make their way out of town. As it was 4 p.m., they were not worried about traffic or anything. That shows their attitude and brazen nature.

Given how long this has been going on, will the Commissioner allocate additional resources? I know there are about 60 between the two. Given all I have said will the Commissioner give a commitment to allocate resources for 24-hour surveillance, which would send a clear message that they will be monitored morning, noon and night, and that regardless of where they go, the Garda will be on their tail. Part of the problem is that they do not fear that.

Mr. Drew Harris

It is very difficult for me to give that assurance. If we were to do that or something similar to that, the last thing I would want to do is put it in the public domain. We confirm, and I hope to reassure the Deputy, that we have put in a huge number of resources, not just at local level but from the national units, to support the policing operation against these two feuding gangs, and that will continue. We recognise the impact this is having on the town. We want to be in a position where people going about their business can feel they can do so without the fear of serious crime happening around the next corner. That is very much our commitment. The rule of law will prevail and we will continue to put resources into Drogheda to make sure that happens.

I will not comment on the specific tactic the Deputy asked me about. I may make a comment to her in private afterwards. We are in a position where we are expending a huge amount of proactive, not just reactive, resources in enforcement operations to try to interdict and get ahead of these criminals.

If the Commissioner wants to have a chat or perhaps correspond afterwards, that is fair enough.

Mr. Drew Harris


As I said, the gardaí are working as best they can with the resources we have, bearing in mind that this kicked off last July with the first of the shooting instances and it was only three weeks ago that we got an additional 25 new gardaí. I will not repeat everything I said but we are asking the questions now because the situation is at crisis point and because of the brazen nature of these criminals who think they can go from A to B without being stopped, deterred or monitored. That is the sense of urgency that exists. Will the Commissioner consider it and correspond with me in writing? Will he give it the consideration it deserves?

Mr. Drew Harris

Yes. The policing operation is getting a huge amount of attention. My deputy, Mr. Twomey, has spent a lot of time making sure that our national response fully supports the local response to this policing issue. We have broken down this type of crime gang previously, and in terms of this response to enforcement and the pressure we put on, we have to be persistent. This situation is protracted. It is difficult to see what the quick fix will be but we are in this for the long haul. I am very happy to correspond with the Deputy to give her an assurance about our ongoing commitment to dealing with this issue. We have spent a lot of time and resources on it but also a lot of thought as to how we can unpick this and also reassure the local community. We have given an additional 15 gardaí to the area. That is on top of the additional national resources being deployed in the area to offer reassurance. Together with the investigative effort, there is a visible and a covert element of which people will not be aware.

When the new joint policing committee is up and running in Limerick, I will get the members to extend an invitation to the Commissioner to attend.

Mr. Drew Harris

Thank you.

Is Deputy Munster happy with the answers?

I am for now but-----

The Commissioner has indicated he is happy to speak to the Deputy privately at the end of the meeting.

Yes. That is fair enough.

The Commissioner should know that I am always last to ask questions. Not every committee does its business like this but that is my choice. He referred a couple of times to the report of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland.

Mr. Drew Harris


I was waiting for the Commissioner to reference the report of the Joint Committee on Justice and Equality in respect of community policing and rural crime. He referenced non-appropriate demands being placed on gardaí, including mental health interventions. All of those issues were reflected in the report we presented. I hope I am not promoting him - I think I have it right - but I want to acknowledge that Deputy Commissioner Michael Finn-----

Mr. Drew Harris

Assistant Commissioner.

I was promoting him. Deputy Commissioner Twomey can tell him I did that. I want to acknowledge that Assistant Commissioner Finn attended the launch of the report here, which was very much appreciated by the members of the committee. I would commend the report and its recommendations to the Commissioner, which only last Thursday was the subject of a full Dáil debate during which it was given a very warm welcome by all political opinion on the floor of the House, including the Minster for Justice and Equality. As the Minister indicated, the two reports are complementary and sit well side by side.

I want to make a couple of points. I noted the Commissioner spoke about the Border region, and others have made their pitch regarding their respective areas. I am also a Border resident and representative. In terms of the future deployment of resources and given what I can only describe as the ever-growing incidence of drug related anti-social behaviour within my community - I am speaking of Monaghan - which is increasingly becoming a feature of headlines in our local print and broadcast media and was not part of the story of our community in previous years, I ask the Commissioner to take note and be cognisant of that. I very much welcome and endorse the decision the Commissioner has taken in respect of deployment in areas of particular need, but I am hoping that in his reference to further deployment of newly qualified sworn members he would take on board that there is a particular need. I am highlighting the Monaghan situation to him.

Mr. Drew Harris

If it can be of reassurance, even prior to my arrival there was a recognition of the particular issues in respect of policing in the Border area. As the Chairman says, we would take note of drink-driving, as well as anti-social behaviour, together with other incidents and criminality reflected in terms of burglary, the theft of farm plant machinery, etc. We are very conscious of that. As we approach Brexit, and we do not know yet what Brexit we are getting, we are also very conscious of reassurance for the community that lives close to the Border and the fear there might be of, in effect, raids taking place back and forth across the Border and the criminality engaged in that.

Over the past 18 months, there has been an emphasis on building up resources in what we call that northern region with members passing out of Templemore but also with establishing armed support units and enhancing our roads policing. That is ongoing. It has not been as dramatic as 25 new gardaí per district, as we did in the last passing out parade, but there has been a build-up of resources, and that will continue. We believe that is prudent given the unknowns we face around Brexit but also the ongoing pressures around anti-social behaviour, drugs offences and criminality.

Some of the examples the Commissioner cited are part of the story going back over many years, given the location and the reality of the Border-----

Mr. Drew Harris


-----but two relatively new challenges present. I refer to anti-social behaviour to a point where the impact on innocent people in the community and the efforts of An Garda Síochána are almost irrelevant. Some of that is drugs related. Drugs activity is taking place openly within the community, which I have only recently referenced both in terms of our local authority and An Garda Síochána.

It is a very serious matter and it is regularly addressed by our county council and the local policing committee. I am reflecting the concerns of colleagues of all political opinions who have addressed this issue at local level. As a Deputy in this position, I appeal on behalf of the wider community and, I have no doubt, of An Garda Síochána members in the general area of Cavan-Monaghan to note that need and that further resources be made available at the earliest opportunity.

The Commissioner mentioned the emergency response unit, ERU, the armed policing-----

Mr. Drew Harris

There is an ERU, with specialist firearms officers, and an armed support unit, which people would see more frequently on patrol.

I want to raise an issue which occurred since we last met the Commissioner. On Tuesday, 26 March 2019, at approximately 8.30 a.m. a man in his night attire believing his life was in danger jumped from an upstairs window onto the street below in an attempt to get away from heavily armed black clad individuals who had their faces covered and who had just broken through a number of doors and into the bedroom where he slept. He did not know that they were members of An Garda Síochána. This happened in Dublin Street in my home town of Monaghan. I put salient questions regarding this incident to the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Flanagan, on 9 April. He stated in reply that the deployment of specialist units, including the ERU is "solely the responsibility of the Garda Commissioner and his management team".

I appreciate very well the restrictions that apply regarding commenting on a matter that within a very short time, hours only on that day I believe, was referred to, and is now being addressed by, GSOC. There has been virtually a close down of any public commentary. There was a limited response from the press office to a local newspaper inquiry at the time that shed no light, and perhaps no light can be shed, because of the nature of the investigation by GSOC. Could the Commissioner comment on the sort of incidents where deployment of the ERU might be appropriate? In this instance, whatever the facts regarding the 26 March deployment in Monaghan town, a sleeping man, who has so-called subsidiary protection in this State, was, out of fear for his life, forced to take drastic action that resulted in serious injury, including a broken leg and serious back injuries. Has An Garda Síochána taken any post-discharge interest in this man's circumstances? He is now unable to work or drive, has very limited mobility and is obliged to wear a whole of torso metal lined vest. He has no medical card. He is an Afghan native. He has no capacity to earn and thereby provide for himself. When his partner is at work he has no one to turn to for the help he needs in carrying out his normal bodily functions. He cannot go to the toilet on his own and he cannot provide even something to eat for himself. I can only repeat what was said but it is a serious matter and that is why I raise it with the Commissioner, realising and understanding that there may be very little he can say at this point, but the man states that on identifying him on the street, one garda said to the other, "Wrong man". I do not know anything of that morning's Garda operation and who was or was not the so-called right man but whatever the truth of all, which has yet to reveal itself, will the gardaí, if they have not already done so, contact this man and seek to assist him in coping with his now very changed physical and emotional state, which is a direct consequence of the events that unfolded that morning and that dominated local media reports over that week?

This is a big issue. I do not question that there are situations where the ERU, or whatever unit was involved in this incident, needs to be deployed. Given that this was an innocent person and all that I have said regarding his circumstances now is there any sense of responsibility or a duty to see how he is coping? He has no family, no one to turn to, and his partner is also a non-national. I can only reflect what I am told. I cannot confirm it. I ask the Commissioner to take on board what I have said. It is a very serious matter, if indeed this is an innocent person. I can only take him at his word. It is not my job to establish that but for a significant number of people in our community there is real concern about this case. What can the Commissioner say to me about it?

Mr. Drew Harris

I would like to see more of the detail. Sometimes when a complaint is made to GSOC that in effect closes down our examination. I need time to examine the incident and the circumstances and liaise with GSOC because while I understand some of the Chairman's points and the seriousness of the impact on this gentleman I can then see what might be done to address the concerns that the Chairman and he have raised. I will be happy to correspond with the Chairman and further brief him on this matter as we look into it.

I would appreciate that. It gives me no pleasure to raise the issue but that is the situation as I understand it and I would appreciate the Commissioner's taking the time to inform himself of what was involved. The deployment, according to the Minister, was sanctioned either by the Commissioner or members of his senior management team. That was the reply given to me on the floor of the Dáil. Therefore, somebody, if not the Commissioner personally, within his management team must have made a decision that the deployment was appropriate in the circumstance. Nothing has happened since, the gentleman has not been arrested or questioned. The only words he heard uttered were "Wrong man".

Mr. Drew Harris

In all operations, the bucks stop with me. I am not in any way evading responsibility for this but I need to find out more about it so that I can respond to the Chairman.

Will the Commissioner do that, please?

Mr. Drew Harris


Thank you.

I thank the Commissioner, Mr. Harris, the Deputy Commissioner, Mr. Twomey, chief administrative officer, Mr. Nugent, director of communications, Mr. McLindon, and Superintendent Broderick for their attendance here. It might interest them to know that commentary among colleagues afterwards will be that the Commissioner has trimmed the attendance at the committee and at least ten have remained at work rather than attend the committee. Well done.

It was previously the case that the Garda appeared to be in competition with the HSE, which used to arrive to the health committee with a phalanx of officials. I wondered what those officials would otherwise be doing. I thank the witnesses for their frankness in engaging with the committee. I look forward to hearing from them on the various matters in regard to which they have undertaken to correspond with the committee.

The joint committee adjourned at 9.10 p.m. until 9 a.m. on Wednesday, 3 July 2019.