asked the Minister for Justice if he is aware that a very noticeable reduction has recently taken place in the level of policing provided in the suburbs of north Dublin, particularly at night, and that this is causing widespread and serious disquiet among the residents of these areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - North Dublin Police Patrols.
I am not so aware. I am informed by the Commissioner that the Garda in Dublin have made some modifications in a beat system which they introduced experimentally last year. It is their intention that this beat system—including the recent modifications—will be kept under continuing review and will be adjusted from time to time in the light of the overall situation. There is no need for any disquiet.
Would the Minister be prepared to accept my word for it that considerable areas of the north Dublin city suburbs are without Gardaí on the streets at night time? In particular, is the Minister aware of the fact that on Saturday and Sunday nights last not a single Garda was on duty from Annesley Bridge to Howth? Would the Minister confirm or deny that this situation has arisen because of the fact that he has now given new instructions with regard to overtime in city stations?
I cannot confirm or deny the actual police presence in any particular area of Dublin at any time of the day or night. This matter is entirely within the control of the Garda authorities. I have to rely on their professional expertise and their advice as to how the city shall be best policed. It is wrong to suggest that I have given any direction to cut down on policing so as to affect a saving in overtime. I am aware of this canard but it is not true.
Has a conference been held recently at which the Minister was present about the level of policing in Dublin city and the amount of overtime been paid?
I have regular meetings with the Garda authorities to discuss all matters pertaining to the operation of policing in Dublin city but I am not prepared to disclose in this House the confidential details of what takes place at such conferences.
Would the Minister accept that in regard to the policing of Dublin city it is necessary to give recruits, who come out after a period of 18 weeks, extra training to make them fit and suitable people to do the policing work in deprived areas particularly? Does the Minister accept that the present course of training is not adequate to qualify them to act as effective policemen in the deprived areas of Dublin?
I have some reservations about the present course of training and I have no doubt that it could be improved, as could the course of training for any calling. That is not to say that the present Garda training is totally inadequate or does not fit the guards for the duties they have to perform. I think it is unfair to the guards to say that when they come into the Dublin area they are not capable of coping with the problems.
I did not say that.
Young guards. That is the implication of the Deputy's supplementary. Young guards coming from the depot are coming to a strange milieu in Dublin city. They have to be guided and assisted in their new environment by the more senior officers experienced in Dublin. It is a matter of a certain amount of ongoing training in the course of their job. We hope to bring them back to Templemore when the pressure on space eases.
I want to make it clear that I am not casting any reflection on the young gardaí. The Minister will accept that many of them come from a rural environment and for that reason they do need to be given special training as to discharging their functions effectively in the deprived areas of the city environment. I am only asking the Minister if he will consider extending the course of training so that our young police who are committed and dedicated will be able to discharge their functions effectively.
It has been expressed to me as a matter of regret that the training depot was ever changed from Dublin to the country, that this was one of the less beneficial effects of the change if you like. I am having the whole question of the curriculum in Templemore looked at, and this is one area to which I shall have special attention paid in view of what the Deputy said.
I am pleased to hear that.
Could the Minister give me an assurance—because I can assure him that this matter is causing very serious disquiet throughout the constituency which I represent—that no instructions have been issued either from his Department or at some Garda level which are resulting in a very considerable reduction in the level of policing in the north-eastern area?
I can only give the Deputy an assurance that I will not interfere with the guards in their assessment of what standard of policing is required in any particular area of Dublin.
The Minister has given no instruction about a reduction in overtime——
I have given a lot of latitude in this question.
Overtime is a problem—let me say that—but it is not confined to Dublin. I have made it clear at all times that in dealing with this problem there is to be no effective reduction in policing.
Will the Minister look into the situation in regard to the level of policing in the north-eastern city area.
I shall draw the Deputy's concern about it to the commissoner's attention.