The Garda Commissioner is responsible for the managing An Garda Síochána and for the allocation of Garda resources, in light of identified operational demands. This includes responsibility for personnel matters and the distribution of personnel. As Minister I have no direct role in these matters. I understand however that Garda management keeps the distribution of resources under continual review in the context of crime trends and policing priorities, to ensure their optimum use.
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. We are making real, tangible progress on achieving this goal.
I am informed by the Commissioner that since the reopening of the Garda Training College in 2014, approximately 2,800 new Garda members have attested and been assigned to frontline policing duties in communities throughout the country. Another 200 probationer Gardaí are due to attest by the end of this year. Further, the Garda Commissioner’s decision to recruit a net 600 Garda staff in 2019 will allow for the redeployment of approximately 500 experienced Gardaí to frontline and visible policing duties by the end of this year.
This focus on investment in personnel is critical and I am pleased that funding is in place for the recruitment of up to 700 Gardaí and additional Garda staff in 2020, depending on the Commissioner’s operational decision on the balance required.
I am informed by the Garda Commissioner that as of 30 September 2019, the total Garda strength of the GDOCB is 105. There are also 13 Garda staff assigned to the Bureau as of the same date.
I further understand from the Garda authorities that, in addition to the GDOCB, the Garda strength of the Louth Divisional Drugs Unit in the years 2016 to 2019 was as follows:
2016: following table (provided to me by the Garda authorities) sets out the Garda strength of the Louth Garda Division Drugs unit from the years 2016 to 30 September 2019, as requested by the Deputy.
2019 (as at 30 September)