Tuesday, 24 July 2018

Questions (1124)

Dessie Ellis

Question:

1124. Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of gardaí in the national drugs unit in each of the years 2015 to 2017 and to date in 2018, in tabular form; the number of gardaí working in the local drugs units in the same period; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34850/18]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

As the Deputy will appreciate, the Garda Commissioner is responsible for the distribution of personnel and I, as Minister, have no direct role in the matter. Garda management keeps this distribution under review in the context of crime trends and policing priorities to ensure optimum use is made of the resources.

As the Deputy will be aware all Gardaí have a responsibility in the prevention and detection of criminal activity whether it be in the area of drug offences, crime or otherwise.  I can assure the Deputy that An Garda Síochána continues to pro-actively and resolutely tackle all forms of drug crime in this jurisdiction.

In 2015 the Commissioner, established a new national Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau (GDOCB), which brought together the Organised Crime Unit and the Garda National Drug Unit so as to create a robust entity to effectively tackle drugs and organised crime, as it currently exists in this country.

The GDOCB leads out the policing strategy for tackling drugs by demand reduction and supply reduction strategies. In this regard the Bureau continues its policy of working with Garda Divisional Drug Units nationwide in tackling supply reduction at local level. This work is further supported by other national units, including the Criminal Assets Bureau, in targeting persons involved in the illicit sale and supply of drugs. I am informed that this approach allows for the co-ordinated use of Garda resources in tackling all forms of organised crime, including illicit drug activity nationwide.

We have also seen unprecedented international cooperation between An Garda Síochána and policing services in other jurisdictions leading to important arrests and drug seizures.

Underpinning all these measures is this Government’s commitment to ensuring a strong and visible police presence throughout the country in order to maintain and strengthen community engagement, provide reassurance to citizens and deter crime. To achieve this the Government has put in place a plan for an overall Garda workforce of 21,000 personnel by 2021 comprising 15,000 Garda members, 2,000 Reserve members and 4,000 civilians. We are making real, tangible progress on achieving this goal.

The moratorium on recruitment introduced in 2010 resulted in a significant reduction in the strength of An Garda Síochána. We are now rebuilding the organisation and providing the Commissioner with the resources needed to deploy increasing numbers of Gardaí across the organisation, including the Divisional Drugs Units, as new Garda recruits come on stream.

I am informed by the Commissioner that since the reopening of the Garda College in September 2014, almost 2,000 recruits have attested as members of An Garda Síochána and have been assigned to mainstream duties nationwide. Garda numbers, taking account of retirements, increased to 13,551 at the end of 2017 – a net increase of over 600 since the end of 2016.

This focus on investment in personnel is critical and I am pleased that funding is in place to maintain this high level of investment in the Garda workforce to ensure that the overall vision for 2021 remains on track.

For the Deputy's information, the following tables, as supplied by the Commissioner, sets out the latest figures as requested.

Drugs Unit Personnel 2015-2018*

Year

Total

2015

258

2016

256

2017

236

2018*

223

* As of 31 May 2018

Garda assigned to the Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau 2015-2018*

Year

Total

2015

107

2016

105

2017

114

2018*

114

* As of 31 May 2018