As the Deputy will appreciate, policing in the border region has always presented particular challenges. These necessitate a collaborative approach to policing with law enforcement agencies north and south of the border.
In November 2015, the British and Irish Governments and the Northern Ireland Executive agreed a series of measures in the agreement A Fresh Start, The Stormont Agreement and Implementation Plan, as part of a concerted and enhanced effort to tackle organised and cross jurisdictional crime. These measures included the creation of the Joint Agency Task Force.
Both Governments are determined that, regardless of the political outcome of Brexit, the excellent ongoing cooperation between An Garda Síochána and the Police Service of Northern Ireland must and will continue to combat the threat posed by dissidents and criminals that seek to exploit the policing challenges posed by the border.
Last week, I attended the 17th Annual Cross Border Conference on Organised Crime in Co. Cavan, aimed at enhancing cooperation between law enforcement agencies on both sides of the border, particularly in relation to cross border organised criminality and related issues. I met with the Permanent Secretary of the Northern Ireland Department of Justice, the Garda Commissioner and the Chief Constable of the PSNI in the margins of this conference, where we discussed matters relating to security in the border region, both now and in the context of Brexit.
I recently spoke to the Home Secretary and have also met the new Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. I can assure the Deputy that I took these opportunities to reaffirm our deep commitment to continuing the close working relationship that we have with our colleagues in Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom and we discussed matters including security and risks in the Border region.
It is also important to note that the Garda Commissioner recently made an operational decision to establish an additional Armed Support Unit (ASU) in Cavan which became operational this week. It will complement the work of the Units nationwide, including those in Ballyshannon, Co. Donegal and Dundalk, Co. Louth in the Northern Region.
The Northern region also continues to benefit from the accelerated recruitment to An Garda Síochána as part of the Government’s plan to achieve an overall Garda workforce of 21,000 personnel by 2021, supported by the unprecedented level of Government funding to the organisation. Garda strength in the Northern Region has increased to approximately 1,500, an increase of 150 Gardaí since the end of 2017. These Gardaí are supported by approximately 150 Garda staff in the region, which represents an increase of almost 30% over the past 3 years, which means that additional Gardaí can be redeployed from administrative to operational policing duties where their training and policing expertise can be used to best effect.
Requirements in the region will in the usual way be kept under ongoing review by Garda management. In the event that a “no deal” Brexit gives rise to additional requirements in border areas, I understand from the Commissioner that further resources can and will be provided as needed.