Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate

Schools Building Projects Status

It is shocking to think that this refurbishment and extension was planned before my daughter attended St. Finian's community college. She is now in her second year of college and many of the issues at the school are probably as bad as they were when she was a pupil, if not considerably worse. Just before Christmas I received a letter from transition year students who are taking a particular interest in this issue. In their letter, they describe how several classrooms do not have any windows and that several windows in the school leak in bad weather, which has damaged student work and ICT equipment. They say that the roof leaks in wet weather, creating pools of water on the floor which is a health and safety risk. There are problems with ventilation in parts of the school which limits work in the science lab and home economics kitchens. Some classes do not have access to emergency exits, which is not in line with safety regulations. There is not enough space to accommodate 660 people and there is no Wi-Fi in the classrooms, which affects teaching and learning. This is a school in Dublin in 2019. It is a DEIS school, which means it is supposed to have extra resources and benefits.

When I raised some of these issues with the Minister for Education and Skills previously, I was utterly shocked to hear that the Department was "unaware of the scale" the problems in the school. Subsequent to that, students posted pictures of vegetation growing inside some of the classrooms online. Even then, the response of the Minister was that it was not possible to say when the project would proceed to tender, at least until the pre-qualification process has been completed. The problem with that is that this project was initiated in 2010. In 2015, after a few years of delay, planning permission was granted. There were certain delays due to fire safety and ESB issues but these issues were overcome more than two years ago. The project was expected to go to tender then and it was expected that work would begin shortly thereafter. A whole year and a half went by and there was no progress. Now we have a limbo situation. In September 2018, the ETB was asked what stage the project was at and what was going on. The school was told that the project was at the pre-qualification stage, for the appointment of contractors. This had been sent into the Department and had been returned with no explanation. I want to know who was responsible for that. We cannot have the two sides saying completely different things but that is what is happening.

In January 2019 there was still no movement. It appears from the Minister's response to me that the Department is using the pre-qualification process as an excuse not to proceed with the development. The ETB is saying that the pre-qualification process has been completed and is with the Department but the Minister is saying that it is with the ETB. They cannot both be right. The manager of buildings in the ETB communicated with the school principal and said that the ETB had completed the documentation and sent it to the Department for approval to go to tender in December 2016. The Department sent that documentation back, stating that it was to be "pre-qualified". The ETB wrote back and asked the Department what it wanted but nothing further happened. This is beginning to make the children's hospital project look well managed. I just do not get it. The answer we seem to be getting to all the questions we submit on education is that projects fall down between the council and the Department or the Department and the ETB. Somebody, somewhere has to do something. This project is more than nine years old and the planning permission for it will expire in the next year if it does not progress. New schools are being promised left, right and centre in locations nearby and meanwhile, hundreds of children are in this school in appalling conditions in Dublin, in 2019.

I am taking this matter on behalf of the Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy McHugh, who is in the Seanad at present. I thank the Deputy for raising this matter as it gives me the opportunity to outline to the House the current position regarding the building project to provide improved accommodation for St. Finian's community college in Swords, County Dublin.

As the Deputy is aware, the project to which she refers is a major devolved building project to deliver a critical standalone extension at St. Finian’s community college in Swords, County Dublin.

This extension will be over 4,000 sq. m, and will include a two classroom special educational needs, SEN, base. Responsibility for delivering the project has been devolved to the Dublin and Dún Laoghaire Education and Training Board. A service level agreement, SLA, is in place between the Department and Dublin and Dún Laoghaire ETB in respect of this project. This agreement outlines the roles and responsibilities of each of the parties in the delivery of education projects. It is a central tenet of devolution that responsibility for the delivery of these projects within certain agreed parameters as laid down in the SLA rests with Dublin and Dún Laoghaire ETB. In this respect, Dublin and Dún Laoghaire ETB has appointed a design team to design the accommodation being provided and to bring the project through the tender and construction phases.

The detailed design stage for St. Finian's community college project is almost complete. Planning and other statutory permissions have been obtained. Officials in the Department have been liaising with Dublin and Dún Laoghaire ETB in recent weeks with a view to resolving some other issues that have arisen with respect to this stage of the project. The matter was discussed at a recent meeting. The primary issue relates to the process for the prequalification of contractors to deliver the project. I am pleased to inform the Deputy that these issues have been worked through and Dublin and Dún Laoghaire ETB is now proceeding with its prequalification process. Once this process is complete, the project will move to the next stage. This involves the preparation and issue of tender documents and the appointment of contractors to complete the project. This process will be carried out by Dublin and Dún Laoghaire ETB and its design team.

I acknowledge that delivery of this project has taken longer than envisaged. This was the result of a number of issues which arose with respect to this project and which required time to resolve. These issues included delays in obtaining statutory consents from the local authority and delays in the finalisation of the detailed design process up to this point. While this process has not yet been completed, I want to assure the Deputy and the House that there is now a clear path to completion of this stage and towards progression to the next stage. The project is now moving into a space where it can quickly progress the prequalification of contractors and thereafter move to tender and construction phases.

I thank the Minister of State. She will have two additional minutes later.

I know the Minister of State, Deputy Mitchell O'Connor, is not the Minister who is responsible for this, but there is a real problem here. When will anybody ever be held to account? There are primitive, totally unacceptable conditions in which our young people are expected to be educated. It is intolerable. I am supposed to accept a response that says not to blame the Department, that it is the fault of the ETB because of the service legal agreement. If that is true, who will make it pay for the debacle, which is what this is? If it is the fault of the ETB, someone has to be held to account. The Minister of State said the detailed design is almost complete. I am sorry but I cannot celebrate because the design team started in February 2013 and the final design proposal was completed two years later in 2015. For me to be told in 2019 that it is nearly complete is no solace at all, it is a cause for great concern.

We are told that the prequalification process is at issue but the ETB says it did its bit in that regard in 2016. Why is this process still outstanding? Whose fault is it that this is still outstanding? If it was doing this back in 2016, how can I be assured that it is finally sorted? The Minister of State might shed some light on the other issues that have arisen because, again, that is a problem as well. Nine years after this was given the nod, there are other issues coming to the fore. Based on all of the stages outlined by the Minister of State in terms of tenders, contractors and so on it will be another two years before anything will even start. That cannot be allowed. Entire generations will be going through this school. There are children there now whose parents and grandparents have been through it in almost the same condition. I cannot accept that without somebody being held accountable.

I will try to answer the Deputy's final question first. There were design issues which need to be considered. This requires the design team to review the project to ensure compliance with new regulations, namely the near-zero energy building regulations.

Dublin and Dún Laoghaire ETB carried out a prequalification process at an earlier stage of the project. However, for a number of reasons, primarily of a legal nature, it has been decided to proceed with a fresh prequalification process. When Dublin and Dún Laoghaire ETB and its design team have completed the tender process, a tender report will be submitted to the Department with a recommendation for the award of the construction contract to the most economically advantageous tender submitted. The Department will examine the tender report and accompanying recommendation, following which the intention is that a contract will be awarded with a contractor moving onto site shortly thereafter.

The Minister, Deputy McHugh, wants to give assurances that the Department is committed to progressing this project as quickly as possible and to confirm that funding has been set aside to progress the building.

Technological Universities

I thank the Minister of State, Deputy Mitchell O'Connor, for coming to the House for this debate. The Minister of State will appreciate that the south east not having a university is not an ideal. The facts speak for themselves. The south east has higher levels of unemployment and lower levels of educational attainment. There is no one reason for this but it is argued by academics, stakeholders and policy makers that not having a university has played its part in those figures, which are not good for the region. We need a university in the south east that puts us on a level playing field with all the other regions. I am a supporter of the technological university of the south east. It is the best fit for the south east and for businesses, people and students.

In the south east we have an airport with no commercial flights. We have two institutes of technology but no university. We are always demanding of the Government that it give us the resources we need as of right. A university is a perfect example of that. What we need for the south east is not just the pegging together of Carlow and Waterford institutes of technology. We have to look at this as the opportunity to build a new world class university of international standing. This will only happen if resources and capacity are put in place. We need to increase the footprint of the campuses of Waterford and Carlow. In my view, the headquarters of the new university needs to be in the economic engine of the south east, its capital, namely Waterford. I know a change management strategy is being worked on by both institutes but I am concerned that the process for the south east is well behind other consortiums. Does the Minister of State, Deputy Mitchell O'Connor, share that concern? How do we transition from where we are now with two institutes of technology to a university of international standing that can be on par with existing universities and can create the level playing field for people and businesses in the south east?

This will not happen if capital funding is not forthcoming.

I tabled a parliamentary question asking the Minister of State about the capital spend for all universities and institutes of technology. According to the response I received, TCD received €15 million, DCU received €32.84 million, UL received €1.7 million, IT Tallaght received €7.7 million, IT Dundalk received €18.4 million, GMIT Castlebar received €2 million and IT Limerick received €11.5 million. There was no mention of Waterford. I went back to the Secretary General of the Department to query that because I was aware that there were plans to build a new engineering, computing and general teaching building in Waterford. I was informed that was the case but the information was not in the original response. The question then arises as to when this will start and finish. We see the capital funding that has been made available for other institutes of technology. Why is this capital funding not in place in Waterford and why has the building not commenced. We are told that it will be a 12,800 sq. m building that will provide additional academic and teaching space but the reality is that much more needs to be done. If we want a university in the south east so that we can attract people to the region and seek to retain those who are currently obliged to leave in order to access third-level education because we do not have a university, we must have the capacity to do so. If we want to attract new graduates to the new university, we must have the capacity to do so. That means resources and capital funding. Can the Minister of State outline the funding that will be put in place in the coming years to ensure that we have a university of international standing which can deliver for the south east?

I thank the Deputy for raising this matter. His doing so is very timely because I have just received the application for Munster Technological University, which came in at 5 p.m. I was hoping that the application from the Technological University for the South East Ireland, TUSEI, would come in before the one from Munster Technological University but that has not happened.

The Deputy will be aware that the Technological Universities Act was enacted in 2018 and that Technological University Dublin has now been set up. I am extremely ambitious for our students and I really believed in the technological university, TU, project. It provides significant opportunities for our students, who are the most important people in this debate, and the regional agenda. We have received the second application. I would ask TUSEI to work on its application. I understand it is ready and I am awaiting it.

The Deputy mentioned Exchequer funding and grants. In respect of the development of TUs, the Exchequer has provided some €19 million to consortia since 2013. The TUSEI consortium has received €1.72 million of this higher education landscape restructuring funding. It should be remembered that the institutes are co-funding the projects through staff and resources allocation. While projects will require funding in order to start up and develop, over time they will, as TUs, be in a far stronger position to attract additional funding streams through research funding, product and services development and the attraction of increased numbers of international students and, as the Deputy stated, those from the south east.

The Higher Education Authority will be announcing a new 2019 call for funding submissions in support of TU development and other landscape restructuring projects in quarter 1. This is further evidence of Government's ongoing commitment to the reform of the higher education sector through judicious consolidation as set out in the national strategy for higher education to 2030. Under Project Ireland 2040, the Government has pledged €2.2 billion in capital expenditure to the higher education sector within the next decade. Government will also spend €4 billion on a wide range of projects over the period 2019 to 2027 as part of Project Ireland 2040. In that context, higher education institutions are well placed to benefit in the areas of rural and urban development, climate action and disruptive technology. A call-out for money has been made in many of these areas. The major investments being made under Project Ireland 2040 will have a transformative impact on our education system, particularly students, and those consortia developing into TUs will be well placed to benefit from the significant investment opportunities presented.

Unfortunately, the Minister of State did not answer the questions I put to her. That is very disappointing. In fact, I was able to put more information on the record of the House as to what capital spend is being made available for the south east than the Minister of State, which is quite extraordinary. The question concerned the capital funding that will be put in place to deliver a university of international standing in the south east. The Minister of State speaks of Project Ireland 2040, of which I am aware, and indicates that €2.2 billion in capital expenditure will be invested in the higher education sector in the next decade, of which I am also aware, and that as part of that, all universities and institutes of technology and potential TUs will benefit. However, I was asking specifically about the south east and the capital programmes that will be put in place. The Minister of State is asking people to take a leap of faith. People need to know how the Government is going to increase the footprint of the campuses in Waterford and Carlow to ensure that the TU has the capacity to retain more students and to attract more people to the south east. How was it that I was able to get information from the Secretary General of the Department when I followed it up with him after I received a poor response to my first question about what funding was being made available? According to an additional parliamentary question response, there is a PPP connected with the engineering, computing and general teaching building that is at an advanced design phase. The question is when the money for that will be made available and when construction will start because what we have in Waterford at the moment is a big crater in the ground. This project was a victim of the Celtic tiger. What capital funding will be invested and what additional capacity will be put in place in the south east?

It is very interesting that the Minister of State said the application from Munster Technological University has now arrived ahead of the one from the south east. What is the reason for that? How is the south east so far behind given that Dublin is so well advanced and the application for Munster has now been received? We are still behind in the south east with high levels of unemployment and lower levels of educational attainment. We need this for the south east. Why is it that, again, the process relating to the south east is well behind the rest?

I announced the €200 million for 11 of our 13 institutions in 2018. The Deputy asked why the application from the south east has been delayed. I am not sure. I have given it a lot of time. I have visited the campus and, since Christmas, met the two presidents of the institutes. I acknowledge the significant work being done by the presidents in Waterford and Carlow. I keep saying that this is for the students. It is not for other, possibly vested, interests. I encourage Waterford and Carlow and all the stakeholders there, including the students, to put pressure to make sure that application is received.

The TU budget is in place. The Higher Education Authority will announce a new call on money. I cannot give out money if I do not see something coming through and I have not seen a definitive plan for the south east. For example, Technological University Dublin received €9.28 million in 2018 while TUSEI received €1.72 million.

We will be-----

It is very depressing to hear the funding for other regions, although fair play to them, they deserve it.

The Taoiseach and I are very ambitious for the area. We want the technological university in the south east to make its application and the expert group to look at that application. I heard that 20,000 students leave the south-east region every year. I would like to see students educated in their own area, thereby creating a regional development dynamic within the area.

I ask Deputy Cullinane to use his office in any way he can to help promote the technological university in the south east. He could talk to whatever stakeholders he deals with and encourage them to come on board and make sure this happens.

State Properties

I am delighted the Minister, Deputy Creed, is in the House to reply to the query. Haulbowline Island, as we know, has been the subject of remediation works since 2011 and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine is the current owner of the site, which is the former Ispat or Irish Steel site. We know the East Tip of the island has been significantly remediated in the last year or so and there is great praise for the work that has been done in respect of the football pitch and the East Tip itself being completed, with proper seeding and shrubbery being planted, and so on. However, there is a question mark over the remainder of the site. My understanding is that three sites were to be remediated. The East Tip is arguably all but complete and there has been much progress on that. I am here to ask the Minister about the status of the remainder of the works and when they will be completed. There is massive expectation on the part of the people who reside in that area, particularly the people of Great Island and Cobh. We know Spike Island has become a global tourist attraction and there is a high expectation that Haulbowline would be completed and remediated in a timely fashion.

I hope the Minister will not respond by saying the ownership of the site is to transfer to the Department of Defence and it then will take ownership of the issue. As far as the people of Great Island are concerned, this is a whole-of-Government issue which should be responded to by everybody across Government. I am hopeful there will not be a turf war between the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and the Department of Defence in respect of the remainder of the works that need to be done. In fairness to the Minister, he has taken ownership of this issue thus far. He stated the remediation works would intensify between July 2017 and late 2018, which has proven to be the case, as I acknowledge. I am hopeful the Government will take a whole-of-Government approach to this issue. I would specifically like to know if there is a funding line available and earmarked for the remainder of the works to be carried out. I ask the Minister to explain the exact position in respect of the site because the expectations are high in the area that the remediation works will be completed.

My Department assumed responsibility for remediation works at Haulbowline Island on behalf of the Government in 2012. The particular focus has been on bringing about compliance with the terms of a European Court of Justice judgment under the waste framework directive concerning the East Tip site. Funding for the remediation project is provided to my Department, in accordance with the specific conditions set out by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, on an annual basis up to the completion date of the remediation works.

The East Tip works are the most significant element of the remediation project. In the period up to 2017, expenditure was focused on preparing for and securing the necessary planning and waste licence consents for the East Tip and upgrading the island infrastructure in anticipation of works. Following the signing of contracts in July 2017, the remediation of the East Tip commenced and, in December 2018, I visited the site to see that the works had been substantially completed. Some minor finishing works on the site are to be completed early this year. The access road leading into the site is also being upgraded and this is scheduled for completion by the end of April 2019.

While the priority has been remediation of the East Tip, work on assessing a suitable solution for the former steelworks factory site has also been advanced in preparation for the next phase of the remediation project. Detailed site investigations have been undertaken and the preparation of an application for planning consent has also been advanced.

The Government has decided that the Minister for Defence will be the ultimate owner of Haulbowline Island, in keeping with the Naval Service being headquartered on the island. Any remediation solution for these areas will need to be cognisant of their likely long-term use. Information from site investigation studies and assessments to date has been made available to the Department of Defence to assist in this work.

Cork County Council has expressed a desire to open a public park at the East Tip site after works are complete. In the meantime, the council continues to act as agent for my Department in carrying out the operational tasks to deliver the remediation project. There has been close co-operation with the naval base to minimise any impacts on its operations arising from the works. The council has also worked to keep neighbours and stakeholders in the area briefed on the status of the works.

I accept the Minister's response. While I have the greatest respect for him, I believe what we are seeing is a transfer of authority from the Minister to the Department of Defence, although it has not happened yet. I reiterate the point that, as far as the people of the Great Island and Cobh and the surrounding areas are concerned, this is a whole-of-Government responsibility and they do not necessarily see into the internal workings of the various silos within Government and between the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and the Department of Defence.

Some €61 million was originally allocated for this during the lifetime of the last Government and my understanding is that only €23 million has been spent so far. We acknowledge the work done thus far but there is more to be done, for example, a significant amount of site remediation work. I have not had a clear answer from Government in respect of when that will happen. We know the recreational park will open some time in 2019 and that will add significantly to the public use value of the site, which is a positive public good. However, we need to hear from the Government specific answers to specific questions as to whether the remainder of the fund will be made available to do the work at the South Tip and at the former steel plant itself. To my mind, the Minister has not responded satisfactorily in that respect.

I ask the Government to revisit the issue and give us a clear picture of what the likely outcome will be, given there was a ring-fenced allocation of approximately €60 million in funding and that has not been spent. Are we now given to understand this has been shelved in favour of other priorities in the capital programme? It is an important issue.

I assure the Deputy there are no silo issues at play here. I am cognisant of the fact there are four Cork Deputies in the Chamber at present and all of us recognise the potential in the greater Cork Harbour area, with Haulbowline as a critical part of developing its potential. The Deputy mentioned Spike Island, Great Island and Cobh. I have been to Haulbowline and witnessed this work, so I know there is huge potential. However, we cannot get away from two issues.

The European Court of Justice ruling was about the East Tip and the immediate obligation was to remedy that situation and ensure compliance. Those works are almost complete now and they are exceptionally well done. Hats off to the contractor, the local authority and the staff of my Department on what has been an extraordinary result.

The other critical point is that the anchor tenant on Haulbowline is the Naval Service, which is headquartered there. It will be the ultimate owner of the island. We were charged with the original obligation to remedy the situation that arose following the European Court of Justice ruling, which we have done, but we have also been engaged with all the stakeholders, especially with the Department of Defence, on the future arrangements and the works that need to be done. We have worked with the local authority on the preparation of the necessary works, which it is expected will continue in a holistic fashion. The next step will be the steelworks site, as Deputy Sherlock mentioned, and to continue the investment that is necessary to bring the true potential of Haulbowline to fruition.

There are not any silos at work. There has been very close co-operation between all stakeholders but in particular between the Department of Defence and my Department, the local authorities, the contractors and the local residents, many of whom were the cause of the European Court of Justice ruling initially and what that triggered. We are on a journey here and there is no intention of pausing the journey. Much preparatory work must go into preparing for the next phase of the works and it is continuing as we speak.

Garda Deployment

Thank you, a Cheann Comhairle, for selecting this Topical Issue matter for debate. I also thank the Minister of State, Deputy Stanton, for coming in to respond to it this evening.

This is an important issue for the Milford, Fanad and Rossguill peninsular areas in the Milford Garda district. It became clear in recent days and this morning that there are plans by the superintendent in the Milford area to pull a number of gardaí who are in stations around the area into the headquarters in Milford. That means the service provided in the stations in Rathmullan, Kerrykeel and Kilmacrennan will not remain as it is, in that no garda will now be based directly in those three stations. That follows on from the situation in recent years whereby no garda is now based in Ramelton station. In addition, Churchill Garda station was also closed by the Government in recent years.

I refer to the Fanad and Rossguill peninsulas, coming across into Kilmacrennan and Churchill. In 2010 Ramelton Garda station had four gardaí added, but now it does not have anyone stationed there permanently. Until a couple of weeks ago Rathmullan had a garda but it does not have one today. Likewise, Kilmacrennan will not have a garda permanently stationed there and neither will Kerrykeel, which had a garda until now, and had several gardaí a number of years ago. Of all the stations in Rathmullan, Ramelton, Kerrykeel, Carrigart, Kilmacrennan and Churchill, only Carrigart will have a full-time garda based in the station. Due to a lack of resources, the superintendent is now pulling all gardaí into the Milford headquarters from where an outlying service will be given in terms of office opening to those other stations. As Councillor Liam Blayney outlined very clearly this morning on local radio, the principle of community policing is that gardaí live and work in an area in which they know the people but that is being pulled back because of the lack of resources. Another local councillor, Michael McBride, mentioned this morning that when his father was a sergeant based in Kilmacrennan in the late 1970s and 1980s three or four additional gardaí were also stationed there, but according to the plans unveiled in recent days there will not be any garda permanently based in Kilmacrennan.

This goes back to the under-resourcing of the Garda force in County Donegal, especially in the Milford district. Despite the fact that recruitment to Templemore recommenced in 2015, the Milford Garda district has not had any new recruits in the intervening period. The impact of that is we are now seeing a superintendent left with little choice but to pull gardaí into the central station when that should not, and cannot, be the case. We need additional resources in the county and in the Milford area, in particular, so that the stations I mentioned can have permanent personnel located in them serving the local community. I hope the Minister of State will address the issue. The situation the Government has overseen is that the Garda force and resources in the county have been depleted to such an extent that the number of Garda personnel has reduced from 466 in 2010 to 404 today. That is simply not enough to do the job of properly policing such a large county. We deserve better.

I acknowledge Deputy McConalogue's interest in and passion for this issue and I thank him for raising it. I apologise for the Minister for Justice and Equality, who cannot be here this evening.

I wish to reiterate for the House yet again that the deployment of Garda resources, including personnel, to specific areas, as the Deputy will appreciate, is solely the responsibility of the Garda Commissioner and his management team. The Commissioner has publicly spoken about issues such as protecting our most vulnerable and he has highlighted that his priority is a policing model that will provide the best outcomes for communities.

The distribution of Garda resources is constantly monitored and a distribution model is used that takes into account all relevant factors, including population, crime trends and overall policing needs at local level. It is then a matter for the divisional chief superintendent to determine the optimum distribution of duties among the personnel available to him or her, having regard to the profile of the area and its specific needs. That applies equally in both rural and urban areas.

The Commissioner has informed the Minister that on 31 January 2019, the latest date for which figures are readily available, the strength of the Donegal division was 409, with 63 gardaí assigned to the Milford Garda district. There are also 13 Garda Reserves and 35 civilians attached to the division.

An Garda Síochána has responded to the type of threats that communities face through a robust and determined drive against criminals who seek to prey on vulnerable householders with the implementation of special operations such as Operation Thor, which is active in the Donegal division and focused on burglary and burglary-related crime. Since the beginning of Operation Thor in 2015 up to 15 January 2019, there have been 9,290 arrests, 10,662 charges, 34,720 searches, 273,355 patrols, 177,488 checkpoints and 97,480 intelligence reports.

Since the reopening of the Garda College in September 2014, almost 2,400 recruits have attested as members of An Garda Síochána and have been assigned to mainstream duties nationwide, of whom 55 were assigned to the Donegal division. I am informed by the Commissioner that the Milford Garda district has now been designated as a Garda training district and it is expected that newly attested probationer gardaí will be allocated to the district following the planned attestation of a further 200 probationer gardaí next month.

The Commissioner has also informed the Minister that it is his intention to recruit a total of 600 trainee gardaí in 2019 along with a net 600 Garda staff. The recruitment of the additional Garda staff will allow the Commissioner to redeploy this year a further 500 fully trained gardaí from administrative duties to the front-line duties for which they are trained. The injection of this large number of experienced officers into the field, along with the new recruits, will be really beneficial in terms of protecting communities.

Furthermore, the Commissioner has been provided with an additional €100 million in 2019, bringing his total budget to almost €1.8 billion. This substantial investment will allow the accelerated recruitment programme to continue, in tandem with the deployment of new and leading-edge technology to support front-line gardaí in carrying out their work of delivering a visible, effective and responsive police service to communities across all Garda divisions, including the Donegal division in 2019 and future years.

I thank the Minister of State for his response, but I am afraid the severity and impact of the Government's failure to work with the Garda Commissioner to properly allocate sufficient Garda resources to the county is not accepted or acknowledged by him and I get no sense from the response that he will ensure, in tandem with the Garda Commissioner, that additional resources are supplied to the county.

I outlined to the Minister of State how we have gone from 466 gardaí in the county in 2010 to just 404 today. We acknowledge that there are new trainees coming out of Templemore but, as I pointed out to him, there have not been any new trainees going to the Milford Garda district.

That is why we are seeing pressure on policing, particularly on community policing. The communities of Rathmullan, Kerrykeel, Carrigart, Kilmacrennan and Ramelton deserve to have Garda members based in the area and working in the stations there. Unfortunately, we have seen from the Government the closure of Churchill Garda station, the reduction of Ramelton Garda station's complement from four to zero and proposals today to pull gardaí from Kilmacrennan, Kerrykeel and Rathmullan to central headquarters. Working with the Garda Commissioner, the Minister of State must look at this issue very seriously and address it. This must be done by putting additional resources into the county and ensuring that Donegal has enough uniformed personnel on the ground. Members of the Garda based in those stations, whose presence in the community is valued so much, must not be pulled away from them because of the Government's inaction.

As it probably was not heard the first time, I wish to stress again that the deployment of Garda resources, including personnel, to specific areas is solely the responsibility of the Garda Commissioner and his management team. It is very important that colleagues understand this. The Minister has no role whatsoever in interfering with that. As already alluded to, community policing is at the heart of An Garda Síochána, as it is recognised that every community, urban or rural, has its own concerns and expectations. All members of the Garda have a role to play in community policing while carrying out their duties. This is particularly true in rural areas such as Milford, where local gardaí are strongly connected to the community. Over the past few years unprecedented resources have been made available to the Commissioner. They are now coming on stream across all Garda divisions, including the Donegal division and Milford district. To conclude, I assure the Deputy that the Government is committed to ensuring that the Commissioner and his management team have the resources necessary to deliver a modern policing service to communities throughout the country, including Milford Garda district. I repeat, they and not the Minister are responsible for the allocation of resources. I thank the Deputy for raising this important issue this evening and bringing it to the attention of the House.