School Libraries

Questions (269)

Peter Burke

Question:

269. Deputy Peter Burke asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a grant is available for a school (details supplied) to provide library books for use by students; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45230/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

There is no specific grant funding available in relation to provision of library books to schools from this Department.

Special Educational Needs Data

Questions (270)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

270. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of children in the Dublin 5, 13 and 17 areas that are on a waiting list to access an ASD unit. [45262/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

The provision of education for children with special needs is an ongoing priority for Government.

Currently, almost 20% of the total Education Vote or €1.9bn is invested in supporting children with special needs. The numbers of special classes, special education teachers and Special Needs Assistants are at unprecedented levels. Nationally, 167 new special classes opened for the 2019/20 school year, which means there are 1,618 special classes in place, compared to 548 in 2011. Of these 1,353 special classes cater for students diagnosed with ASD.

Opening new special classes and the enrolment of students is a matter for individual schools in the first instance. My Department has no role either in making or deciding on enrolment applications to schools or keeping waiting lists. In these matters, schools are required to adhere to the requirements of relevant legislation and the policies of my Department.

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) has a statutory function to plan and co-ordinate the provision of education and support services to children with special educational needs, in consultation with the relevant education partners and the Health Service Executive (HSE).

The Council has well established structures in place to plan and coordinate special education provision throughout the country. This includes identifying the need for and establishing special class placements in various geographical areas where they are required. The Council ensures that schools in an area can, between them, cater for all children who have been identified as needing special class placements.

Normally, special classes are established with the full cooperation of the schools in areas where they are required. However there are some parts of the country where the Council has faced challenges in getting schools and their Patrons to voluntarily agree to provide special class or school places. I know that this can cause much anguish for parents and families involved.

As Minister I have a power under Section 37A of the Education Act 1998 to direct a school to provide additional provision where all reasonable efforts have failed.

The legislation was used for the first time back in April in respect of the Dublin 15 area. We have made significant progress in a relatively short period with the opening 7 new special classes and a new Special School that will provide 88 places for children with special needs. The new places will help these families and ensure that the children concerned have access to education.

The NCSE is continuing its work at local level to ensure all children can access a suitable school placement for the forthcoming school year and beyond.

As Minister, I would much prefer that schools provide the necessary places for the children in their community. Where this is not the case, however, I am prepared to use the legislation to ensure that children can access a suitable education.

As the Deputy's question relates to the identified need for special class placements in a number of specific areas, I have arranged for the question to be forwarded to the NCSE for their attention and direct reply.

Schools Building Projects Status

Questions (271)

Eoin Ó Broin

Question:

271. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of the capital allocation for building works at a school (details supplied) in County Dublin. [45305/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

The major building project for the school referred to by the Deputy is included in the Department's Construction Programme which is being delivered under the National Development Plan.

This project is currently at an advanced stage of architectural planning, Stage 2(b) Detailed Design which includes the application for Planning Permission, Fire Cert and Disability Access Cert and the preparation of tender documents. All statutory approvals have been secured.

At a recent meeting with the schools, their design team and officials from my Department, the consultant Quantity Surveyor advised the Boards of Management and my Department that the firm is withdrawing from the project.

In early October, the consultant Architect advised that it is also withdrawing from the project as the firm has gone into liquidation.

A tender process to replace both the design team Architect and Quantity Surveyor will commence shortly.

Education and Training Boards Staff

Questions (272)

Peter Burke

Question:

272. Deputy Peter Burke asked the Minister for Education and Skills if an increment will be allocated to a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45320/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

The ETB is a statutory body with its own corporate status established under the Education and Training Boards Act 2013. Each Educational Training Board (ETB) receives a teaching staffing allocation from my Department and it is the responsibility of each ETB to recruit and manage staffing levels within this allocation.

Terms and conditions of employment for staff employed by ETBs are matters for the ETB concerned. While the recruitment and appointment of teachers to fill teaching posts is a matter for the individual school authority, in this case the ETB, it is subject to procedures agreed under Section 24(3) of the Education Act 1998 (as amended by the Education (Amendment) Act 2012).

DEIS Eligibility

Questions (273)

Brendan Smith

Question:

273. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills further to Parliamentary Question No. 90 of 4 April 2019, the progress regarding the application for DEIS status by a school (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45321/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

As the Deputy is aware, my Department is currently undertaking data analysis in the context of resource allocation to match identified need, including the examination of variables known to be strong predictors of educational disadvantage. All schools at both Primary and Post Primary are being assessed using the new identification model.

This analysis is being carried out by members of the DEIS Technical Group which contains representatives of the Department’s Statistics and Social Inclusion Units, the Inspectorate and the Educational Research Centre. Work is ongoing by this group and significant progress has been made. I am confident that the culmination of this analysis will facilitate the ultimate aim of matching resources to identified need and will allow us to target extra resources at those schools most in need. Until this analysis is complete, it is not intended to extend the DEIS programme to any further schools.

Schools Building Projects Status

Questions (274)

Joe Carey

Question:

274. Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of a school building project (details supplied) in County Clare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45361/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

The delivery of this school building project has been devolved by my Department to the local Education and Training Board (ETB). A Service Level Agreement between my Department and the ETB has been signed and sealed in that respect.

I can confirm that the design team for the project has now been appointed. This appointment is a key first step in the design and construction stages.

The design team will now design the buildings, obtain the necessary statutory planning permissions and move the project onward to construction in due course. As the project is at an early stage in the delivery process, it is not possible at this time to give a date for its completion.

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

Questions (275)

Louise O'Reilly

Question:

275. Deputy Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of additional ASD places for the 2020-21 school year in a school (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45404/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

The provision of education for children with special needs is an ongoing priority for Government.

Currently, almost 20% of the total Education Vote or €1.9bn is invested in supporting children with special needs. The numbers of special classes, special education teachers and Special Needs Assistants are at unprecedented levels. Nationally, 167 new special classes opened for the 2019/20 school year, which means there are 1,618 special classes in place, compared to 548 in 2011. Of these 1,353 special classes cater for students diagnosed with ASD.

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) has a statutory function to plan and co-ordinate the provision of education and support services to children with special educational needs, in consultation with the relevant education partners and the Health Service Executive (HSE).

The Council has well established structures in place to plan and coordinate special education provision throughout the country. This includes identifying the need for and establishing special class placements in various geographical areas where they are required. The Council ensures that schools in an area can, between them, cater for all children who have been identified as needing special class placements.

Before approaching a particular school to request the establishment of a special class, the NCSE take into account both present and future potential need within the area and must be satisfied that the class is sustainable and appropriately located.

The NCSE is continuing its work at local level to ensure all children can access a suitable school placement for the forthcoming school year and beyond.

When the NCSE sanction a special class in a school, the school can apply to my Department for capital funding to re-configure existing spaces within the school building to accommodate the class and/or to construct additional accommodation.

My Department approved the construction of a four classroom SEN Base under the Additional Accommodation Scheme 2019 for the school referred to by the Deputy. Dublin and Dun Laoghaire Education and Training Board (DDLETB) are currently assisting the school in the appointment of the Design Team for this project.

It is not possible at this early stage to give a timeframe for the delivery of this project.

School Admissions

Questions (276)

Louise O'Reilly

Question:

276. Deputy Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his attention has been drawn to the fact that there is a lengthy waiting list for secondary school places in a school (details supplied); his plans to make additional places available for the 2020-21 school year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45405/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

In relation to school admissions, parents can choose which school to apply to and where the school has places available, the pupil should be admitted. However, in schools where there are more applicants than places available, a selection process may be necessary. This selection process and the enrolment policy on which it is based must be non-discriminatory and must be applied fairly in respect of all applicants. However, this may result in some pupils not obtaining a place in the school of their first choice. The Deputy will note however that the selection process procedures and enrolment policy are the responsibility of the individual school authorities.

I can confirm to the Deputy that my Department is in receipt of an application, for additional accommodation, from the school in question. I wish to advise that additional information has been sough from the patron of the school. As soon as this information is received the assessment process will be progressed.

School Admissions

Questions (277)

Willie Penrose

Question:

277. Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Education and Skills the procedures available to parents to have their child enrolled in secondary school for the academic year commencing September 2020, and in which it has been indicated that the child has been placed on a waiting list, which indicates he or she may never be admitted in view of being significantly down the waiting list; the remedies or solutions available to such parents; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45416/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

My Department's main responsibility is to ensure that schools in an area can, between them, cater for all pupils seeking school places in an area. However, this may result in some pupils' not obtaining a place in the school of their first choice. As schools may not have a place for every applicant, a selection process may be necessary. This selection process and the enrolment policy on which it is based must be non-discriminatory, and must be applied fairly in respect of all applicants.

Under section 15 (2) (d) of the Education Act, 1998, each school is legally obliged to disclose its enrolment policy and to ensure that, as regards that policy, principles of equality and the right of parents to send their children to a school of the parents' choice are respected.

Section 29 of the Education Act, 1998 provides for an appeal by a parent or guardian to the Secretary General of my Department where a Board of Management of a school, refuses to enrol a student in a school. My Department has no authority to compel a school to admit a pupil, except in the case of an appeal under Section 29 of the Education Act, 1998 being upheld. Further information on the Section 29 appeals process is available on my Departments website at: https://www.education.ie/en/Parents/Services/Appeal-against-Permanent-Exclusion-Suspension-or-Refusal-to-Enrol/.

The Educational Welfare Service (EWS) of the Child and Family Agency (Tusla) is the statutory body which can assist parents who are experiencing difficulty in securing a school placement for their child. The EWS can be contacted at 01-7718815 or 01-7718500.

Child Abuse

Questions (278)

David Cullinane

Question:

278. Deputy David Cullinane asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of the compensation scheme established four years ago for persons abused as children in day schools; the number of applications made; the number that have received compensation to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45446/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

Since the ex gratia scheme was established in July 2015, a total of 50 applications were received.

Payments are being made to a number of victims of child sexual abuse in day schools on foot of the assessments made by the Independent Assessor to the ex gratia scheme, Mr. Justice Iarfhlaith O'Neill.

The current position is that sixteen offers of payment have been made and, to date, eight have been accepted.

In response to the assessor's determinations my Department, in conjunction with the Office of the Attorney General, is examining the ex gratia scheme.

The review is progressing but is not yet complete.

Immigration Controls

Questions (279, 303)

Marc MacSharry

Question:

279. Deputy Marc MacSharry asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if a single point of contact on migrant smuggling has been appointed as per the EU Action Plan against migrant smuggling 2015-2020. [44467/19]

View answer

Jim O'Callaghan

Question:

303. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if a single point of contact on migrant smuggling has been appointed as per the EU Action Plan against migrant smuggling 2015-2020. [44470/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 279 and 303 together.

On 27 May 2015, the European Commission issued the EU Action Plan against migrant smuggling (2015-2020). This sets out a structured policy framework identifying a set of concrete measures in four priority areas:

- enhanced police and judicial response;

- improved gathering and sharing of information

- stronger prevention; and

- increased cooperation with third countries.

An aspect of the enhanced police response was the suggested establishment of a single point of contact on migrant smuggling in each member state to enhance operational cooperation, coordination and the sharing of information with each other and with EU agencies.

The facilitation of illegal immigration is one of the priorities is one of Europol’s priority crime areas under the EMPACT programme (European multidisciplinary platform against criminal threats) in the 2018-2021 EU Policy Cycle. The stated aim of this policy area is to disrupt Organised Crime Groups (OCGs) who facilitate illegal immigration by providing facilitation services to irregular migrants along the main migratory routes crossing the external border of the EU and within the EU.

The Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB) play a key role in relation to these matters and I am informed that insofar as my Department is concerned, following the recent restructuring, migrant smuggling policy will now be led by the Criminal Justice Policy team.

Human Trafficking

Questions (280, 281, 282, 283, 284, 301, 313, 315)

Marc MacSharry

Question:

280. Deputy Marc MacSharry asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the preventative measures in place at ports here to detect instances of migrant smuggling; and the planned changes or enhancements in view of the recent tragic death of 39 persons who travelled in a container from Bulgaria to the UK. [44473/19]

View answer

Marc MacSharry

Question:

281. Deputy Marc MacSharry asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of staff employed to provide security checks on ships and lorries entering at each port in tabular form. [44474/19]

View answer

Marc MacSharry

Question:

282. Deputy Marc MacSharry asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of staff employed to detect possible human smuggling at ports here in tabular form. [44475/19]

View answer

Marc MacSharry

Question:

283. Deputy Marc MacSharry asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if staff members at ports and airports here have received training and guidance on the detection of possible migrant smuggling. [44478/19]

View answer

Marc MacSharry

Question:

284. Deputy Marc MacSharry asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he or representatives of his Department have met with Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency to discuss measures to prevent migrant smuggling. [44479/19]

View answer

Jim O'Callaghan

Question:

301. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the preventative measures in place at the main points of entry and exit to detect instances of migrant smuggling; and the planned changes or enhancements to same in view of the recent tragic death of 39 persons who travelled in a container from Bulgaria to the UK. [44468/19]

View answer

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

313. Deputy Fergus O'Dowd asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the actions being taken at each port and airport by location to detect, prevent and combat human trafficking; the funding provided for such measures in each of the past three years; if further funding has been requested; if trafficking has been detected; if so, the actions taken; the outcomes of such actions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44606/19]

View answer

Micheál Martin

Question:

315. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his views on migrant routes across the EU and the UK; his further views on whether there is a need to increase security to prevent containers being used for human trafficking; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44614/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 280 to 284, inclusive, 301, 313 and 315 together.

While both human trafficking and migrant smuggling are criminal activities frequently involving criminal networks seeking to make a profit, there are important distinctions and it is important to differentiate between them.

I can assure the Deputies that the Government is fully committed to addressing the challenges of human trafficking and migrant smuggling under Irish and EU legislation and the principal international conventions and we are active domestically and at the international level on these matters.

A range of Departments are relevant to these matters.

An Garda Síochána also plays a key role in relation to the prevention and detection of human trafficking and migrant smuggling. As such, I have requested a report from the Garda authorities on the matters raised and once I receive it, I will write directly to the Deputies with that and additional information.

Paramilitary Groups

Questions (285, 370)

Micheál Martin

Question:

285. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he has discussed the increased paramilitary activity with his UK counterpart. [45241/19]

View answer

Brendan Smith

Question:

370. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the outcome of his recent discussions with the Garda Commissioner regarding the policing needs of the Border region in view of a range of recent deplorable incidents across the region; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45492/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 285 and 370 together.

As the Deputies 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 and there is close ongoing cooperation between An Garda Síochána and the PSNI.

The importance of this ongoing high level of cooperation has been emphatically demonstrated again in recent times, in particular by the abhorrent attack in Co. Fermanagh in September. I have visited the area and was briefed by the Commissioner and the investigation team. It is clear that elements of that horrific crime took place on both sides of the border and a joint investigation is ongoing, including continuing sharing of information and evidence, between An Garda Síochána and the PSNI.

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, which is led by senior officers from An Garda Síochána, the Police Service of Northern Ireland, the Revenue Commissioners and UK (HM) Revenue and Customs.

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.

I have spoken recently to the UK 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 on such matters as security and risks in the Border region. The Deputy will also be aware of An Taoiseach's discussions with Prime Minister Johnson, as detailed in his responses to Parliamentary Questions on the matter.

As Deputies may recall, in September, 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. This provided an additional opportunity for all those attending, including the Commissioner, the PSNI Chief Constable and the Permanent Secretary of the Northern Ireland Department of Justice, to discuss issues arising.

As the Deputy will be aware, the Garda Commissioner recently made an operational decision to establish an additional Armed Support Unit (ASU) in Cavan which became operational last month. It will complement the work of the Units nationwide, including those in Ballyshannon, Co. Donegal and Dundalk, Co. Louth in the Northern Region.

I also want to assure the Deputies that An Garda Síochána has the full support of the Government in its ongoing work in addressing cross-border criminality and we are providing record resources to enable it to perform this critical role. The Northern region 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 160 Garda staff in the region, which represents an increase of almost 35% over the past 3 years, with the result that additional Gardaí can be redeployed from administrative to operational policing duties where their training and policing expertise can be used to best effect.

I am assured that 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 through redeployment.

Courts Service Data

Questions (286)

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

286. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the necessary steps for a person to access the digital audio recording of a court proceeding regarding themselves; the average wait time between application and receipt of a recording for a person; and the longest wait time from the moment of application for a request by a person in a case regarding themselves in the past five years. [44193/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

As the Deputy will be aware, under the provisions of the Courts Service Act 1998, management of the courts and of court buildings is the responsibility of the Courts Service, which is independent in exercising its functions. In order to be of assistance to the Deputy, however, I have had enquiries made with the Courts Service.

The Courts Service have informed me that any party to a court case can bring an application to the presiding judge to access the digital audio record of proceedings. The procedure for bringing an application in each jurisdiction is set out in the following Rules of Court:-

- District Court Rules- Order 35

- Circuit Court Rules- Order 67A

- Superior Court Rules- Order 123

These rules also set out the terms on which such access may be granted. While a party to a case may apply to the court to access the recording, the granting of access and the terms under which such access is granted is a matter for the court.

The Courts Service does not record the length of time between an application being lodged, the date of the Court application and the release of a record of proceedings. However, in general, once a court grants such an application, the copy record is produced on a priority basis and sent to the person who has applied for it within a matter of days.

In some courts, the digital audio recording system does not record precisely when witnesses speak. Consequently, where parties apply to access recordings in these courts, it will require a staff member to listen back to a recording of hours of court proceedings. In this event, there can be a slight delay in the preparation of the copy of the record.

Illegal Fireworks

Questions (287)

Eoin Ó Broin

Question:

287. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will consider strengthening the law to prevent the illegal or reckless use of fireworks and deal with the rise in the dangerous use of fireworks during the Halloween period. [44194/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

The law is clear on the use of fireworks in Ireland. Fireworks are regulated and can only be imported into Ireland under licence. Licences for the import of fireworks are issued by my Department only for the importation of fireworks which are to be used in organised displays conducted by professional and competent operators.

Under Part 6 of the Criminal Justice Act 2006:

- It is an offence for any person to possess a firework with intent to sell or supply, without a licence;

- It is an offence to throw an ignited firework at any person or property, and;

- It is an offence to light unlicensed fireworks in a public place.

Part 6 of the 2006 Act also gives An Garda Síochána the power to make arrests in relation to the possession of unlicensed fireworks.

The penalties for these offences are very severe. Having unlicensed fireworks in your possession with intent to sell or supply can result in a fine of up to €10,000 and up to five years imprisonment. Igniting the fireworks or throwing an ignited firework at a person or property is also liable to the same severe penalties.

Finally, I would point out that each year, as Halloween approaches, my Department runs an advertising campaign highlighting both the public safety aspects as well as the illegality of using fireworks. I launched the most recent campaign on 21 October 2019, in cooperation with An Garda Síochána and the Fire Service. The campaign ran in print and online media in the lead up to Halloween 2019.

Garda Deployment

Questions (288)

Jim O'Callaghan

Question:

288. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of staff assigned to the Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau in each year since its establishment in 2015, in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44205/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

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.

For the Deputy's information, the attached table, as supplied by the Commissioner, sets out the latest figures as requested. 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.

Drugs Unit Personnel 2015-2019*  

Year

Total

2015

258

2016

256

2017

236

2018

222

*2019

232

* As of 30 September 2019

Garda members assigned to the Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau 2015-2019*

Year

Total

2015

107

2016

105

2017

114

2018

112

*2019

105

* As of 30 September 2019