I should say at the outset that the distribution of Garda personnel is exclusively the statutory responsibility of the Garda Commissioner.
As the Deputy will be aware the Rathcoole Garda Station forms part of the Dublin Metropolitan Region (DMR) West Division. I am informed by the Commissioner that on 30 April 2018, the latest date for which figures are readily available, the strength of the DMR West Division was 672 of whom 14 were assigned to Rathcoole Garda Station. There are also 26 Garda Reserves and 55 civilians attached to the Division.
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, 155 of whom have been assigned to the DMR West Division.
It is important to appreciate that the increased specialisation within An Garda Síochána means that the number of Gardaí assigned to various Divisions does not include those assigned to various special bureaus or units and, of course, those Gardaí are also undertaking critical policing work, e.g. the Garda National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, the Armed Support Units, the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau and the Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau. More than 120 extra Garda were assigned to the specialist units within Special Crime Operations since 2017 alone.
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 DMR West Division, as new Garda recruits continue to come on stream.