As Minister for Justice and Equality, I warmly welcome announcement 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 that report.
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.
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.
I understand that, while developing the new Model, the Garda Commissioner engaged widely within the organisation, holding 67 workshops which captured the views of over 400 Garda personnel from a cross section of urban, suburban and rural Divisions, as well as all specialist and support sections and their respective Chief Superintendents. I am informed that the Commissioner also met with the GRA and other representative bodies which were of course also consulted by the Commission which developed the proposals.
Finally, I can confirm that while I was informed of the Commissioner's plan and, of course, I was familiar with the recommendations of the Garda Síochána Inspectorate and the Commission on the Future of Policing on these matters, the detail of the plan was solely a matter for the Garda Commissioner. This was the case in line with the Garda Síochána Act 2005 which provides that management of An Garda Síochána and the allocation of Garda resources, including the deployment and distribution of Garda personnel, is solely a matter for the Commissioner.
These changes have been welcomed by the Garda Inspectorate, the Policing Authority, members of the Commission on the Future of Policing and many others, including the Irish Farmers Association. The Commissioner has also made clear that he and his team are willing to meet Joint Policing Committees all over Ireland in the weeks ahead for detailed local engagement. I am confident that the new Model will serve Ireland well by providing a more agile, localised and responsive police service nationwide.