The Programme for a Partnership Government recognises that community policing is the embodiment of An Garda Síochána, providing a means of recognising that every community – both urban and rural – has its own concerns and expectations.
It commits the Government to ensuring visible, effective and responsive policing in every community, including the most minimal response times possible.
In support of this objective, the Policing Authority will be asked to oversee a review of, among other things, both the boundaries of Garda districts and the dispersement of Garda stations in rural areas, and in developing urban and suburban areas, with a view to ensuring both an efficient and optimum geographical distribution of stations and minimal response times, including taking account of station closures since 2012.
Under the Programme, the Government is committed to launching a pilot scheme to reopen 6 Garda stations both urban and rural to determine possible positive impacts that such openings will have on criminal activity, with special emphasis on burglaries, theft and public order. This will be initiated within two months and I intend to consult with Commissioner and the Policing Authority to agree the process through which the Commissioner will identify the 6 stations that will be reopened under the pilot.
The Deputy will be aware that some 139 Garda stations were closed on foot of the implementation of the Garda District and Station Rationalisation Programme, which was implemented in 2012 and 2013, following the completion by An Garda Síochána of a comprehensive review of its district and station network.
As the Garda Commissioner is responsible for the effective and efficient use of the resources at her disposal, the review was undertaken with the objective of identifying opportunities to introduce strategic reforms to enhance service delivery, increase efficiency and streamline practices within the organisation. It concluded that a revised district and station network commensurate with the organisation’s resource base would best meet public demand.
I have been informed by the Garda authorities that the closures have allowed front line Garda to be managed and deployed with greater mobility, greater flexibility and in a more focused fashion particularly with regard to various targeted police operations.
While I welcome the beneficial outcomes that have accrued to An Garda Síochána arising from the Station Rationalisation Programme, the Programme for Government recognises that there is a need for a review along the lines that I have outlined to the House.
My officials will shortly be in contact with the Policing Authority with a view to putting in place the necessary arrangements for the review and I will ensure that the outcome of the review is put before the House.