I very much welcome the publication of this report. This report feeds directly into initiatives already underway in Government as we implement the key recommendations of the report of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland, of which Dr Connolly was a member.
As Deputies will be aware, the Government in December 2018 endorsed the report of the Commission on the Future of Policing and accepted all key recommendations. We are now progressing these recommendations through a high level implementation plan: ‘A Policing Service for the Future’.
A key recommendation is the introduction of new legislation which, among other matters, should redefine policing to include prevention of harm. However, it also recognises that prevention of harm is not solely a policing matter. An Garda Síochána and any other body within or outside the criminal justice system cannot, acting alone, provide the required response. The report “Building Community Resilience” highlights the importance of developing a holistic approach to crime problems at a community level and it is this type of holistic approach with inclusion and involvement of the community that has been adopted in the North East Inner City in addressing issues in that part of the city.
That said it requires a considerable commitment from across Government and beyond, including from those in our communities, to deliver. My Department is developing a policy focused on the concept of community safety with real cooperation between the range of actors involved in harm prevention in partnership with our communities. The community safety policy will seek to deliver on these goals by strengthening the way agencies work together and work with communities.
Community safety is about being safe and feeling safe. There are many reasons why someone might not feel safe and I want to ensure the Deputy that there is a coherent system in place to tackle the range of issues.
The Policing and Community Safety Bill being drafted by my Department will redefine policing to include prevention of harm to those who are vulnerable and place an obligation on relevant state agencies to cooperate with An Garda Síochána in relation to the broader issue of community safety. It will also provide for a new coherent governance and oversight framework to empower the Garda Commissioner to act as CEO supported and held to account by a non-executive Board, ensure strong internal governance and robust, transparent external oversight and effective accountability which will ultimately lead to a better run organisation and more effective policing.
Work on the preparation of the General Scheme of the Bill is well advanced with a view to submission to Government by the end of Q1 2020. This is a major piece of legislation and the drafting process will be complex, however it is anticipated that the new arrangements will be in place in 2021.
In terms of protection for children from being lured into criminality, the Deputy may be interested to know of the "Greentown” project, a research project led by the REPPP Project (Research Evidence into Policy, Programmes and Practice) at the School of Law in the University of Limerick. The REPPP project is a strategic research partnership with the University of Limerick, funded by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs and supported by my own Department. Its specific focus is on examining the recruitment by criminal networks of children in Ireland and to make recommendations for interventions to disrupt this.
In the absence of international models of intervention that could be readily deployed, the original Greentown report (December 2016) recommended the design of a programme to include interventions with children and their families to help them withstand the influence of criminal networks. This new “Greentown Programme” has been designed with the input of leading international expertise on crime and criminal networks, together with Irish scientific, policy and practice expertise in child protection and welfare, drugs and community development.
Finally, I would note that Government is currently providing record funds for An Garda Síochána.
€1.76 billion has been allocated to the Garda Vote for 2019, and this is increasing to an unprecedented €1.882 billion for 2020. This investment is aiding the sustained growth of the organisation. In addition, a total of €92 million capital investment was made this year and this is rising further to over €116 million in 2020. This unprecedented level of funding is provided to ensure a strong and visible police presence throughout the country in order to maintain and strengthen community engagement, provide reassurance to citizens and deter crime.