As Minister for Justice and Equality, I have warmly welcomed the announcement by the Garda Commissioner of a new Operating Model of An Garda Síochána.
As the Deputy will be aware, 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.
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 on-going investment in Garda resources together with the on-going reform process will result in an improved policing service for all communities.
I was informed of the Commissioner's decision about the location of the new Divisional and Regional Headquarters on the morning of 25 September, shortly before the official announcement. Neither I nor my officials were previously consulted in relation to the choice of those locations - in accordance with the law, the decision on the location of Garda Divisional and Regional Headquarters is and was solely a matter for the Garda Commissioner and his management team. This is the case in accordance with the Garda Síochána Act 2005, under which the allocation of Garda resources and deployment of Garda personnel are for the Commissioner. As recently as December 2018, the Garda Síochána Inspectorate in its report “Policing with Local Communities” confirmed that it is appropriate that the Commissioner should continue to hold responsibility of this sort.
I understand that the new model will be implemented on a phased basis throughout 2020 and that the Commissioner and his team are meeting with Joint Policing Committees across Ireland, providing opportunities for detailed engagement at the local level.