I am pleased to have the opportunity to present to the select committee the Further Revised Estimate for 2019 for the Justice group of Votes. I am joined by my officials, Mr. Donnchadh O'Sullivan, Mr. Michael Culhane, Mr. Seamus Clifford, Ms Nuala Ní Mhuircheartaigh and Ms Elizabeth Downey.
The Justice group of Votes is made up of six Votes, with a combined gross expenditure allocation of €2.77 billion this year, comprising €2.58 billion in current expenditure and €195 million in capital expenditure. In addition, there is a further capital provision of €7 million in unspent capital from 2018 available for spending in 2019 under the capital carryover provisions. Gross expenditure in Vote 20 - An Garda Síochána - is €1.76 billion, which amounts to 64% of total funding for the entire group of Votes. The Estimate for 2019 is increased further by an additional amount of €3.58 million carried forward from 2018 under the capital carryover provisions.
I am informed by the Garda Commissioner that since the reopening of the Garda College in September 2014, approximately 2,600 recruits have attested as members of An Garda Síochána and been assigned to duties in communities across the country. Reaching a strength of 15,000 will require continued recruitment on a phased basis in the next three years. The Government is committed to reaching this goal and I am pleased to say I have secured funding in budget 2019 for a continued uptake of 600 Garda trainees this year and the significant recruitment of civilians, known as Garda staff.
I acknowledge the importance of last year's report from the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland which reiterated the importance of Garda resources being focused on policing duties and recommended the transfer of many non-policing functions carried out by sworn members of An Garda Síochána to Garda staff or other agencies with greater responsibility for these areas.
There are in the region of 2,500 full-time Garda staff undertaking administrative and technical duties within An Garda Síochána. The Government is determined that this number will increase to 20% of the Garda workforce, or 4,000 individuals, by 2021, to bring the composition of the Garda workforce more into line with international norms. The investment in civilian personnel will ensure trained gardaí will not be engaging in administrative and technical duties which could be done by suitably qualified Garda staff. This will ensure greater visible policing within communities, one of the key recommendations made in the commission’s report. It will also help to address critical capacity and skills gaps in the organisation in various areas such as corporate supports, finance, HR and IR that are the legacies of the moratorium on recruitment put in place owing to the downturn in our economic fortunes.
The Garda Commissioner is responsible for the distribution of newly attested gardaí among the various Garda divisions. Newly attested gardaí have a further 16 months of practical and classroom based training to complete after their eight months in Templemore in order to receive their BA in applied policing which is accredited by the University of Limerick. To ensure they are properly supported and supervised and will have opportunities to gain the breadth of policing experience required, the Garda Commissioner's policy is to allocate them to designated Garda stations that have appropriate training and development structures in place that include access to a trained tutor garda and a permanently appointed supervisory sergeant who is thoroughly familiar with their responsibilities under the training programme. I am particularly pleased that the additional funding allocated in 2019 provides for an increase in the supervisory ranks of 190. The number of sergeants will increase by 110 and inspectors by 81.
While up to €95 million is available in 2019 for the overtime budget of An Garda Síochána, I must emphasise that garda overtime cannot be considered in isolation from the increase in the number of new gardaí and the redeployment of gardaí to front-line policing duties due to the civilianisation programme. Over a period, it is expected to alleviate pressure on the overtime budget. It is also the case that the unprecedented investment being made in Garda ICT infrastructure – some €342 million between 2016 and 2021 - will enable An Garda Síochána to deliver on reform and work more efficiently in delivering professional policing and security services for the community. I fully support the Garda Commissioner in his efforts to ensure overtime will come in on budget and that it will free up resources for other important areas in the Garda Vote such as increased training and the provision of equipment and other resources.
I am pleased that under the national development plan and as part of the overall vision in Project Ireland 2040, the Garda capital allocation has been increased from €61 million to €92 million this year, which represents a 50% increase. This will facilitate investment of approximately €61 million in ICT, now an important element in the fight against crime. This substantial investment will provide new and leading edge technology to support front-line gardaí in their daily work across communities. In addition, the budget provides for a further €10 million investment in the transport fleet and €25 million in the Garda building programme, including the capital carryover. The building programme is an ambitious five-year programme based on agreed Garda priorities which continues to benefit over 30 locations throughout the country, underpinned by significant Exchequer funding across the Garda and OPW Votes. In addition to that programme, other major works to the Garda estate that are ongoing include the pilot Garda station reopening project, the development of a new facility on Military Road and the major refurbishment of Fitzgibbon Street Garda station. The programme also includes a PPP project to deliver much-needed new stations in Macroom, Clonmel and Sligo, as well as a new custody suite at the Garda station located on Anglesea Street in Cork. The clear goal of this investment is to address deficiencies in the Garda estate and provide fit-for-purpose facilities for Garda members and staff, as well as the public in interacting with them. There has been some good progress in improving the Garda estate in recent times, including in particular, the completion and entry into operational use in 2018 of three new divisional and regional headquarters in Wexford and Galway and on Kevin Street in Dublin which, collectively, required funding of over €100 million.
I am pleased that the process of implementing the report of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland is well under way. Funding of €10 million is to be provided in 2019 for the justice and policing and transformation programmes to support ongoing reforms.
Vote 24 - Justice and Equality - includes a gross Estimate provision of over €501 million which is broken down into five separate programmes, comprising almost 60 separate subheads. There is an additional €940,000 in unspent capital available from 2018.
I am particularly pleased that substantial funding has been made available to agencies that play such a pivotal role in the criminal justice area such as Forensic Science Ireland and the Criminal Assets Bureau. A total budget in excess of €30 million is being provided in 2019 for Forensic Science Ireland, of which €18.5 million is capital. The allocation of additional funding is in response to the increased workload of Forensic Science Ireland, combined with the complexity of cases. Over €2 million in additional current expenditure has been provided to enable new staff recruitment and cover certain non-pay costs. Capital funding of €18.5 million has been provided for the multi-year capital project that will provide Forensic Science Ireland with the much-needed facility to carry out its crucial role in the criminal justice sector. While certain site preparation works have been carried out to date, the procurement process for the construction of the new laboratory which is being carried out by the Office of Public Works on behalf of the Department is due to conclude shortly.
A further €700,000 has been provided for the Criminal Assets Bureau, compared to the corresponding budget in 2018, to fund additional staffing resources assigned to the bureau. This brings the total budget for the bureau to €8.6 million in 2019. Members will be aware that the bureau plays a crucial role in tackling money laundering and targeting the proceeds of crime. All over Ireland the bureau is working to ensure criminals cannot enjoy the spoils of their illegal activities. The increased resources will support it in this vital work.
Additional funding of over €1.5 million has been made available to the Probation Service and the Irish Youth Justice Service in 2019. The total budget for these areas in 2019 is just under €61 million. The additional funding provided for the Probation Service includes €500,000 for the implementation of a Housing First project which is being undertaken in conjunction with the Irish Prison Service for the provision of accommodation and support for up to 75 hard-to-house prisoners. The additional funding for the Irish Youth Justice Service of €500,000 will enable additional initiatives to be undertaken to divert young people at risk away from crime and anti-social behaviour.
Further additional funding, in the order of €3.6 million, is being provided for the Data Protection Commission, bringing the total budget to €15.3 million. The office has received significant additional resources in recent years to build the organisation’s capacity and capability in preparation for its enhanced regulatory powers and more prominent international role under the GDPR. The increased resources have facilitated the recruitment of additional staff, including legal, technical, audit and investigations specialists, as well as policy and administrative staff. The increased funding fully reflects the importance of a stable and effective data protection regulatory environment in protecting the personal data of individuals, for the broader economy and, in particular, in the continuing expansion and growth of the digital technology sector.
It was also possible to provide additional funding of over €1.6 million for the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, including a re-profiling of the existing budget and the provision of new additional funding, bringing the total budget to €10.7 million. It will enable additional staff to be recruited in carrying out its investigative and administrative functions and to further expand the unit established to deal with protected disclosures.
Additional funding has also been provided across a number of equality areas, including gender equality, in the order of €1.9 million, bringing the total budget to €5.1 million; Traveller and Roma initiatives, in the order of €500,000, bringing the total budget to €3.9 million; the migration and integration fund, in the order of €1 million, bringing the total budget to €2.5 million; and LGBTI equality measures, in the order of €200,000.
This funding will assist in continuing to progress our national equality strategies for Traveller and Roma inclusion, the national strategy for women and girls, and the migrant integration strategy. It will also allow the State to derive maximum benefit from EU matching funding available for European Social Fund projects.
I am pleased also that significant progress is being made in the restructuring of the Department. As recommended by the effectiveness and renewal group, ERG, the Department has now been realigned under two pillars each headed up by a Deputy Secretary. The two executive pillars, civil justice and equality and criminal justice, will be supported by a central corporate pillar. A new corporate governance structure reflecting this realignment came into operation from January 2019.
The effectiveness and renewal group also recommended that the Department should design and implement a new operating model, based on five functional units each focused on specific areas of activity, policy, operations, transparency, governance and legislation. The Department established a transformation programme to implement the new operating model. The Department has completed the high level design of the new operating model at the end of March and has now moved to detailed design. The programme is on schedule and due for completion by October this year. I am pleased that in the recent periodic reports which I have received effectiveness and renewal group have noted the substantial progress being made by the Department consistent with the group’s recommendations.
Turning to the prisons Vote, Vote 21, the gross Estimate in 2019 is €359 million. The additional current expenditure of almost €10 million, compared with the corresponding budget in 2018, includes €7 million in respect of additional payroll costs and to recruit both prison and administrative staff to enhance delivery of services and the implementation of updated business processes throughout the prison service.
The prisons capital budget is €32.3 million in 2019 and will enable significant progress to be made on the redevelopment of Limerick Prison with in cell sanitation and a dedicated stand-alone new female prison for the Munster region. This project is due for completion next year.
A total Estimate in gross terms of €138.4 million is being provided for the Courts Service, Vote 22, plus an additional €2.5 million in unspent capital from 2018.
The unspent capital from 2018 will mainly facilitate the continuing expansion of the Courts Service online strategy which in turn supports the key objective of improved services to the public and access to justice. The enhanced services include the full deployment eLicencing system to all solicitors throughout the country and the commencement of the development of eProbate system and electronic sharing of probate information with the Revenue Commissioners.
A gross Estimate of €3.38 million has been provided for the Policing Authority Vote, Vote 41, and the gross expenditure budget for the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, IHREC, Vote 25, is €6.75 million to enable it to continue its important work in promoting and protecting human rights and equality.
I will be happy to take any questions the members may have in relation to the varied range of Votes which make up the justice sector budget.