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Garda Deployment

Dáil Éireann Debate, Wednesday - 28 September 2016

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Questions (22)

Thomas Byrne


22. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality if she is satisfied that sufficient resources are available to meet the needs of the policing of County Meath. [27217/16]

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Oral answers (8 contributions) (Question to Justice)

Are Garda resources in County Meath sufficient? I am sure the Minister and the entire House will join me in recognising the sacrifices members of An Garda Síochána have made in the north east. A number have been outrageously murdered while a number others have been injured in County Meath recently while detecting crime.

I can only join with the Deputy in acknowledging both the loss of life of gardaí undertaking their duties, including Garda Golden in recent months. I was in Templemore earlier this week when the Scott medal was given to Caroline, the wife of Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe who lost his life.

The number of gardaí assigned to any one place is an operational matter for the Garda Commissioner. There has been a great deal of discussion about making sure that we do not do what was always done previously in allocating gardaí and assign them to where the crime trends are showing an increase in future. The allocation of gardaí should be matched to the demands of an area.

According to the latest figures for the Meath Garda division, there were 289 gardaí with 23 reserves and 25 civilians. Where appropriate, the work of local gardaí is supported by a number of Garda national units. While I have outlined the allocation of gardaí in the county, I would like to be clear that local gardaí are often backed up by the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau and the Garda National Drugs and Organise Crime Bureau. I expect that as Garda recruitment accelerates next year, when we hopefully will take in approximately 800 new recruits into Templemore to bring the force's strength to 15,000, more civilians are recruited and the reserve is doubled, the impact will be felt in all areas. The decision to assign gardaí to a particular area is up to the Garda Commissioner.

As Members will have noticed, the clock has crashed and, therefore, it is back to school for me. I warn everybody that I am able to count. Deputy Byrne has one minute.

The problem in County Meath is the population continues to increase and Garda numbers have not kept pace. There is also a significant motorway network traversing the county, which lends itself to burglaries. There are spates of burglaries in particular areas. Over a year ago, it was Duleek, then Donore, Stamullen and, most recently, the Kiltake-Moynalvey area where gardaí were injured during a spate of burglaries. The burglars were using the motorway but they are also aware of the lack of a Garda presence in large areas because of the lack of numbers. It is not the fault of gardaí.

The other issue is there is a large number of towns in other counties, which border Meath, and the gardaí stationed in them ordinarily cannot serve our county. I refer to Kingscourt, Drogheda, Balbriggan, Maynooth and Kilcock. In general, these gardaí cannot enter the county even though they are stationed on the edge of the county. In some cases, one can walk across the street in these towns into the county. That has to be addressed. People in these areas feel vulnerable. Somebody living outside Kilcock has to look to Ashbourne or even Layton for a Garda presence.

Everybody is concerned about his or her own area and will make a case for it, which I appreciate, but the allocation of gardaí, particularly the 534 newly attested gardaí, is important. A total of 19 of them have been deployed in the Meath division. As recruitment is accelerated following the reopening of Templemore College, the areas where the need is greatest will benefit. Clearly, that is a decision for the Commissioner. She has to consider the particular needs of individual areas when allocating new gardaí.

I take the Deputy's point regarding access to motorways for criminal gangs and their mobility but we must ensure the Garda can match that. A total of €64 million has been invested in Garda vehicles, which is important. It is also important to update technology to enable quick reaction by the force.

I am trying to accommodate a number of Members. I ask Members to help their colleagues but sticking to their time.

I thank the Minister. Will she ask the Garda authorities to seriously examine this geographical issue, which is detrimental to County Meath at the moment? There are many towns on our border. If one walks up the street in Kilcock, one crosses into County Meath. It is a similar story in Drogheda while Balbriggan and Kingscourt are only over the road. The gardaí stationed in those towns cannot enter our county and people must look to stations much further away. That is instilling a lack of confidence among the public in the Garda's service. They wonder why a garda from down the road cannot come to deal with their crime and why they have to contact a station in a town much further way, which they never visit.

That is something which will have to be addressed and at which the gardaí will have to look. This was done for the joint policing committees, JLCs, but all these towns used to serve these areas. When the JPCs came in, this had to be done on a county boundary basis. We should not be doing Garda administration on the basis of what the JPCs are but on the basis of what is best for detecting crime on the ground.

The issue of divisions and operational responsibility is one the Garda is currently examining. I ask the Deputy to write to me on the points he has made and I will bring them to the attention of the Commissioner. I will get some information for him on the new approaches that are being recommended on divisional operational responsibilities, which I think address the point he is making about gardaí not being able to move between certain areas.