Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Questions (41)

Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire

Question:

41. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of gardaí attached to core Garda units in Cork city Garda division compared to 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22687/18]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

I should say at the outset that the distribution of Garda personnel is exclusively the statutory responsibility of the Garda Commissioner

I am informed by the Commissioner that in order to deliver an effective policing service, it is essential that Garda management have the flexibility to deploy Garda resources to meet operational policing needs and address critical issues as they arise. For this reason, it is a matter for the Divisional Chief Superintendent to determine the optimum distribution of duties among the personnel available to him or her having regard to the profile of the area and its specific needs at any given time. The material requested by the Deputy is, therefore, not available in the manner requested.

By way of assistance to the Deputy, I am further informed by the Commissioner that the strength of the Cork City Division in 2010 and on 30 April 2018, the latest date for which information is currently available, was 698 and 682 respectively. There are also 42 Garda Reserves and 72 Garda civilian staff attached to the Cork City Division. When appropriate, the work of local Gardaí is supported by a number of Garda national units such as the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, the Armed Support Units, the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau and the Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau.

I can assure the House that the Government is committed to ensuring a strong and visible police presence throughout the country in order to maintain and strengthen community engagement, provide reassurance to citizens and to deter crime. To make this a reality for all, the Government has in place a plan for an overall Garda workforce of 21,000 personnel by 2021, including 15,000 Garda members.

Real, tangible progress has been made towards this goal. Garda numbers, taking account of projected retirements, increased to 13,551 at the end of 2017 - a net increase of over 600 since the end of 2016.

The Deputy will be aware that in 2010 a previous Government closed the Garda College and imposed a moratorium - the measures imposed at that time had a negative impact on Garda numbers across all Divisions and the legacy of these decisions continues to have consequences for policing. When it had brought about an early exit from the bailout and stabilized the public finances, in September 2014 the then Government reopened the College and since then just under 1,800 recruits have attested as members of An Garda Síochána and are performing mainstream duties nationwide, 48 of whom have been assigned to the Cork City Division.

I am pleased that funding is in place to maintain this high level of investment in the Garda workforce to ensure that the vision of an overall workforce of 21,000 by 2021 remains on track. This year a further 800 new Garda Recruits will enter the Garda College; some 400 of whom have already done so. In total, 800 Garda trainees are scheduled to attest during the year, some 200 of whom attested in March. Further, Garda numbers, taking account of projected retirements, are on track to reach 14,000 by the end of this year.

Taking account of projected retirements, reaching a strength of 15,000 by 2021 will require some 1,600 more Garda members to be recruited on a phased basis over the next two years. This is an ambitious programme of accelerated recruitment. To ensure a continuous pipeline of candidates a new recruitment drive was launched by the Commissioner last week with a closing date of 6 June. The competition is being undertaken by the Public Appointment Service on behalf of the Commissioner and applications should be made to www.publicjobs.ie.

In addition to the investment in more Gardaí, a further 500 civilians will also be recruited to fill critical skills gaps across the organisation and to facilitate the redeployment of Gardaí from administrative and technical duties to front-line operational duties. There are plans to strengthen the Garda Reserve with new Reserves expected to commence training in 2018.

This focus on investment in personnel is critical. We are now rebuilding the organisation and providing the Commissioner with the resources needed to deploy increasing numbers of Gardaí. Undoubtedly, the ongoing recruitment process will support all Garda activities and enhance visibility within our communities and will enable the Commissioner to provide additional resources across every Garda Division, including the Cork City Division, as new Garda recruits continue to come on stream.