As Minister for Justice and Equality, I warmly welcome the announcement in recent weeks by the Garda Commissioner of a new Operating Model of An Garda Síochána.
This functional model has long been recommended by independent policing specialists, including the Garda Síochána Inspectorate and in the Report of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland (CoFPI). Rollout of this model meets a key commitment in A Policing Service for the Future , the four year implementation plan giving effect to the recommendations of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland.
While new to Ireland, this model is the norm in other countries. It is designed to reduce bureaucracy and will shift real decision-making power from Garda Headquarters to the Chief Superintendents, closer to the communities they serve. Importantly, it will also result in significantly more Sergeants and Inspectors on the ground where leadership, supervision and mentoring is crucial.
I understand that the finer details of the implementation of the new Divisional structures are currently being determined by the Garda Commissioner and his team, and that the new model will be implemented on a phased basis throughout 2020.
Regarding the approach which will be taken to the merger of Divisions - the Deputy will appreciate that the Commissioner is by law responsible for the effective and efficient use of the resources made available to An Garda Síochána including the deployment and distribution of Garda personnel. Accordingly the detail of the implementation of the new Divisional structure is solely for the Commissioner and not for me as Minister.
I understand however that the Commissioner and his team is meeting Joint Policing Committees all over Ireland in the weeks ahead and there will be opportunities for detailed local engagement at that stage.
Finally, it is important to note that these changes are being introduced at a time of record investment in An Garda Síochána. €1.76 billion has been allocated to the Garda Vote for 2019, as well as capital investment amounting to €92 million this year. In terms of Garda numbers the Deputy will be aware of the Government's commitment to achieving a Garda workforce of 21,000 personnel by 2021.
I am confident that this ongoing investment in Garda resources together with the ongoing reform process will result in an improved policing service for all communities.