As the Deputy will be aware, there has been unprecedented investment in An Garda Síochána in recent years, in support of the Government’s commitment to ensuring a strong and visible police presence throughout the country in order to maintain and strengthen community engagement and provide reassurance to citizens and deter crime.
The resources provided by Government to An Garda Síochána have reached unprecedented levels, with an allocation for 2019 of €1.76 billion. This represents an increase of over 6% over the initial allocation for 2018.
Very significant capital investment is also being made in An Garda Síochána, including investment of €342 million in Garda ICT infrastructure between 2016 and 2021 to enable An Garda Síochána to deliver on reform and deploy the latest cutting edge technologies in delivering professional policing and security services for the community.
Investment of €46 million is also being made in the Garda Fleet over the same period to ensure that An Garda Síochána has a modern, effective and fit-for-purpose fleet. This is additional to the investment of almost €30 million in the fleet in the period 2013 to 2015.
The Government is also making considerable capital investment in addressing the deficiencies in the Garda estate.
As the Deputy will appreciate, in accordance with the Garda Síochána Act 2005, it is the Garda Commissioner who is responsible for carrying on and managing and controlling generally the administration and business of An Garda Síochána. Further, the allocation of Garda resources is a matter for the Commissioner, in light of his identified operational demands.
I understand that the Garda Air Support Unit was established in September 1997 with the delivery of a Pilatus Britten-Norman BN 2T-4S Defender 4000 fixed wing aircraft and a Eurocopter AS355N Eceuriel helicopter. In 2001 the Unit acquired a second helicopter - a Eurocopter EC 135 T2. In 2007 the Eceuriel helicopter was replaced by a second EC135 T2+.
As the Deputy will appreciate, the question of prioritising the upgrading or replacement of these aircraft is in the first instance for the Commissioner, in the context of the investment being made in An Garda Síochána and his operational priorities. I am informed by the Garda authorities that neither the two helicopters nor the Fixed Wing Aircraft have reached the end of their operational lives and as such, no funding has been provided in the 2019 budget for their replacement.
My Department will of course continue to engage with Garda management on an ongoing basis in relation to current and capital resource needs.