Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate

Insurance Costs

The reason I raise this matter should be clear. Ar an chéad dul síos, I thank the Ceann Comhairle and Leas-Cheann Comhairle for giving me the opportunity to raise the matter in the Topical Issue debate. Each day we hear of a new business or community group that has to close because of skyrocketing insurance premiums. It is happening across the board. Recently, Mr. Justice Nicholas Kearns, chair of the Personal Injuries Commission, said that claims arising at the lower end of the scale, namely, whiplash and soft tissue injuries, of the compensating personal injuries, account for more than 70% or almost three quarters of all injury claims in Ireland. Moreover, as the second report of the Personal Injuries Commission clarified beyond any doubt, we compensate claimants here at a rate 4.4 times greater than in the UK and at rates far in excess of most EU member states. One could ask what is happening here. In recent years the Minister of State, Deputy D'Arcy, outlined what he was doing and he produced a report with 70 different actions. If we had seven actions that would have been fine and there would have been progress, but that report is probably gathering dust. There is evidently an unwillingness on the part of the Government, the system and the legal system to tackle the issue.

Mr. Justice Kearns went on to say:

Closure is now the order of the day for many other small businesses besieged by personal injury claims and rising premiums. This crisis has spread across many small businesses, leisure facilities, shops, places of employment and is now causing people to lose their jobs in areas where, but for this market distortion, would be thriving and prosperous. Those in a position to do something about [this] must now finally get up and do the right thing.

However, the Government is not getting up and doing the right thing. It is appalling that we cannot have a book of quantum, as in other jurisdictions, that is reasonable and sensible. I have no issue with somebody who suffers a serious injury making a claim but I take serious issue with frivolous and fraudulent claims. The recent exposure about a colleague in this House is shocking. It sends out a completely wrong message. Questions also arise about certain legal firms connected with this House representing the person concerned. What is going on is despicable and it is time to stop. It makes it worse that the example was given by the Chair of an Oireachtas committee. Often, people who have genuine injuries do not claim because they want to get back into work and into the community. The Minister of State does not seem to be doing anything whatsoever about it.

I am a small business man who employs up to 20 people. I just renewed my insurance recently and it has gone up by 30%. That is 30% on top of 30% on top of 30% on top of 30%. It is just not funny anymore.

Settlements are made out of court for frivolous claims. It is time that the gravy train in the Four Courts was stopped in its tracks. We should have a book of quantum which outlines what one should receive for a broken limb or broken finger. The fat cats, the gravy train and the lawyers should be taken out of the equation, as should the no foal, no fee approach and advertising for cases. We did not have such advertising 29 years ago but we have it now. The fraudulent claims industry is sick and despicable, and it is time the Government did something about it.

Companies and businesses contact me every day of the week. A voluntary community group in Cahir recently had its playground closed down because it was grappling with insurance costs. The county council will not take it in charge unless it is given a guarantee that it will be inspected every morning and that it will open and close at certain times. Community groups raise funds and the Government contributes to their efforts. They are being closed now and many activities are affected. There is a fabulous walking festival and rhododendron festival in Clogheen next weekend but it is also facing issues with insurance. I wish the organisers well. The festival is good for exercise and the physical and mental health of people. However, this sick culture of claims is being propagated and a Member of this House got involved in such a situation. There is a suggestion that adults should be supervised when taking part in some leisure activities. What will be next? Will children be left to mind adults? In this House it seems that the animals are minding the zoo.

I will not be commenting on the case that Deputy Mattie McGrath mentioned. I have never spoken about an individual case. I have been doing this job for two years and I do not intend to speak about an individual case before it gets to court, when it is in court or afterwards.

I love how Deputy Mattie McGrath is almost always entirely wrong. He said there is an unwillingness to deal with this issue. I have never seen as much desire to deal with the issue of insurance as there is now. However, this is not a simple matter. The Deputy asked me why I do not change the book of quantum. I do not have the authority to do that and nor does anyone in this House. We do not have the authority to act in that way due to the separation of powers. It is a matter for the Judiciary rather than Deputies in this House.

A number of years ago, the cost of insurance working group produced reports on employer liability and public liability insurance. The second report was launched by the former President of the High Court, Mr. Justice Nicholas Kearns, and it proposed the establishment of a judicial council. This council would include a committee made up of members of the Judiciary which would re-examine the guidelines, in effect creating a new book of quantum. That is the work we are doing. The legislation is before the other House. Report Stage will take place in the Seanad, I hope, within a couple of weeks. The objective is that the legislation would pass through the Upper House and this House before the end of the summer session. I appeal for the help of everyone to get this legislation through. If we get it through before the end of this session, I will request an early signature motion by the President so that the judicial council can be established. The members of the Judiciary can then do the work with which they have been tasked by the Personal Injury Commission, namely, to review the guidelines. That is a crucial piece of work. If we do our work in a quick and efficient manner, I can see no reason members of the Judiciary cannot do the same. I have put in place a schedule for the completion of this work by the end of this year, which is a reasonable timeframe. It would ensure that the businesses of this country which have been caught by awards or exaggerated claims or small claims are able to reduce their premiums. The crucial aspect of this is to ensure that the insurance companies do not get the opportunity to pocket the awards. I do not want circumstances to arise in which the awards come down and the premiums do not. That is not what I am about, and I believe nobody in these Houses is in favour of such a move. We must ensure that businesses are allowed to trade in an efficient manner. They employ people and with employment comes the opportunity to access everything that is required for the dignity of people, allowing them to advance in society.

For every one fraudulent claim, there are hundreds of exaggerated claims where people who have been affected through no fault of their own jack up the amounts they are seeking. I believe that is a fact. For every one exaggerated claim, there are hundreds of claims by people who want the correct amount. However, awards here, according to the Personal Injuries Commission report, are four or five times higher than in England and Wales. We must also be careful around this issue. Every business person pays insurance so that if someone is affected by an accident caused in part by negligence, those people will be paid efficiently and well.

I totally reject the idea that I am almost entirely wrong again. A child in kindergarten could see what is going on. I will not take a lecture on this from the Minister of State. Hotels, nightclubs, big bars and playgrounds have seen their premiums increase by 300%, 400% and 500%. Representatives of those groups have appeared in these Houses, lobbying us. Fine Gael has been in Government for nine years and insurance payouts are still 4.4 times higher than in England. The Minister of State suggested that it is not our duty. It is our duty, as legislators, to change the legislation and allow the Judiciary to implement changes within a certain time. It cannot be allowed to dilly-dally and delay matters. Businesses are disappearing like snow from a ditch. They are being destroyed. People start at a young age, get business loans and put all their might and main into it, only to be forced out of business by fraudulent claims which are supported by a culture in the Law Library and the Four Courts. It is sickening. I have been the victim of such claims in my own business. Days can be spent in court waiting for something to happen, only to be told eventually that the matter has been settled on the steps of the court. There are hundreds of people in court on occasion; it is like a bloody Munster final. I was in Waterford court on one occasion, and it is a farce. Everyone is in the courthouse on the same day and it is a total waste of money. Certain people are getting paid because the clock ticks on. It is despicable.

The problem with this House is that there are too many vested interests here that will not allow change to happen. It is time for Fine Gael to do something about this beyond talking, delivering pious platitudes and promising to rush legislation through the House. The Government's legislation will get support from this side of the House because most of my colleagues are self-employed. The latest legislation in the House, the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill, has been held up for a long time in the Seanad and there is not a word about it in the media. When we held up the shameful Road Traffic Act introduced by the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Ross, we were pilloried in the media and described as backward and gombeen men. There is a Dublin 4 mentality at play here, with a "screw everyone outside the Pale" mentality. It is time for action rather than words. The report the Minister of State mentioned has 70 recommendations when seven or even three would have been enough. We need fair compensation for reasonable injuries. The legal aspect should be cut out and a transparent system put in place which will provide support to people if they get injured and those with serious injuries are paid.

To clarify, I did not say that the Deputy is always wrong but, rather, that he is almost always wrong. I welcome the fact that he has committed to supporting the Bill. He is a member of the Business Committee, along with the Chief Whip, and I welcome the fact that he has committed to getting the Judicial Council Bill through as quickly as possible.

The insurance companies are no white knights and their settlement channels are wrong. Some insurance companies pay out "go away" money rather than settlement money. As the Deputy stated - he is sometimes right - other insurance companies wrongly drag people through the courts, which is not fair either. The settlement channels have to be reviewed.

I believe the brother-sister test should be applied. If an incident happens in a venue that is a business premises and potentially has insurance, it does not automatically mean that people should make a claim. A claim should not be made where the person would not claim in circumstances where a similar incident took place in his or her brother's or sister's house. The high level of awards here and the easy money to be made in some instances have given rise to an attitude where people will try to get what they can out of it. That is wrong. It is a compensation culture that must be broken down because it is not a victimless cost. The cost is not to the insurance company but to the person paying the premium to the insurance company because it will be passed on. Last year, three Bills were instigated. The Judicial Council Bill, which I hope the Deputy will continue to support in this House, was one. The Civil Liability and Courts (Amendment) Bill 2019, sponsored by Deputy Michael McGrath, was another, and I would be delighted if that Bill was passed. The third is the Consumer Insurance Contracts Bill 2017 sponsored by Deputy Pearse Doherty. I intend to amend that Bill, which I also hope to get through the Houses. With the support of this House, we can do a great deal in the area of insurance to protect businesses.

When business is protected in this manner, jobs are protected. Every Member will agree with me on that.

Inland Waterways Maintenance

Positive work is being done at Meelick weir. It was damaged by floods in 2009 which caused much damage. While the work being done is welcome, it was needed to be done long before now.

The weir is a crossing point on the Shannon on an important walkway, the Beara-Breifne Way, which runs from Breifne in Leitrim to the Beara Peninsula, straight through Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands. It is important it is kept open. I know there is difficulty with doing the work outside of the summer period with the possibility of damage to the fisheries. The problem is that people using the walkway have not been informed it is closed. Many businesses, particularly tourism businesses, are directing people up the walkway as far as the bridge but they cannot cross it. Over the past several days, some tourists could not cross the river at the point. Perhaps a solution could be found to reroute users through an alternate route or have the footbridge open for certain periods of the day to enable people on hiking holidays in the region to get across it.

A simple solution can be found. I put it down as a Topical Issue matter because it was raised by the area’s Councillor Dermot Connolly with me. He told me it is a simple matter that could be resolved if raised at the right level. I trust the Minister or someone in the Department would be able to have a word with the Office of Public Works to find a solution to accommodate the work that needs to be done which is valuable and welcome, as well as accommodating the tourism industry to ensure the walkway is kept open.

I thank Deputy Martin Kenny for raising this matter which I am taking on behalf of the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Deputy Madigan.

Meelick weir was originally built in the 1790s as part of the Shannon navigation. The weir which is over 300m in length with a 12 sluice barrage maintains and regulates the navigation level for that section of waterway between Athlone in Lough Ree and Meelick in Lough Derg. Navigation between both is through Victoria lock which is adjacent to Meelick weir. The weir and its walkway link the historic village of Meelick in County Galway to Lusmagh in County Offaly and forms part of the Hymany Way.

The weir level is increased by the installation of weir boards from an overhanging waterway to maintain an ordinary summer level for navigation while the boards are removed in winter to allow additional water conveyance outside of the boating season. The weir and its boards are an integral part of the Shannon navigation while also managing water levels and flows on the mid Shannon. The levels are managed by Waterways Ireland at Meelick in conjunction with those at Athlone and Parteen by the ESB.

In 2009, during an extreme weather event, the weir and its walkway from which the weir boards are placed and removed were extensively damaged. In the 2015-16 severe weather event, the last remnants of the walkway were destroyed. In 2012 Waterways Ireland began a design process including environmental assessment for the replacement and re-instatement of the weir, the walkway and more modern system of weir board management. In 2015 Waterways Ireland sought planning permission to replace the walkway and install a system of tilting weir boards from Offaly and Galway County Councils. Planning permission was received in 2017. In 2018 Waterways Ireland sought to appoint a competent construction company to undertake the works on its behalf and a competitive tender process was undertaken in August 2018.

On 1 March this year, I was happy to be able to announce that €3.2 million will be invested by Waterways Ireland in the restoration and replacement of the Meelick weir walkway. I had the pleasure of attending the turning of the sod for this development shortly afterwards. I am fully aware of the importance of this restoration to the counties of Galway and Offaly and, in particular, to the local communities which have been without the walkway for several years. Construction works have now commenced on site. The weir, adjacent quay and hardstanding area is currently closed to members of the public and will be for the duration of the works. Construction is due for completion by the end of this year, subject to favourable weather conditions and water levels. Access to the Beara-Breifne Way through the works site is restricted. However, alternative access to the way at various adjacent locations remains.

We are conscious this closure is impacting on the walkway but this is important and necessary work. The completed project will add immensely to the attraction of the area, safety and connection between the two villages in question. The Department has informed me that alternative ways are signposted. If the Deputy passes me on the concerns of Councillor Dermot Connolly, my former colleague, I will get the Department to respond on the alternative crossing points.

I thank the Minister of State for his reply. We are on the same page on this. The work is welcome but the difficulty seems to be that access through various adjacent locations is not clear to people using the walkway. If there is an issue with communication or signage, it needs to be dealt with. It probably should have been dealt with some time in advance with better communication and consultation with local tourism providers. I will tell Councillor Dermot Connolly that the Minister of State would welcome some contact for reassurance on this matter.

There is much work to be done across the Beara-Breifne Way, particularly north of Leitrim village. It would be welcome if the work could be done as speedily as possible. If reassurances can be given and better signage put in place, this issue could be easily resolved. In some of these cases, one can find individuals who do not think outside the box or do not try to find the solution when one is clearly there in front of them. Perhaps a word in the right ear might be able to resolve that issue.

I will engage with the Department and Councillor Dermot Connolly on this matter. If it is a simple issue in terms of better communication or signposting, this can certainly be dealt with.

There are different funding streams available through the rural regeneration scheme and LEADER for different sectors. I am sure the various local authorities on the Hymany Way and other routes are involved in progressing and forwarding plans and planning permissions. It is clear this will be a successful project once it is restored and will add significantly to the Hymany Way and the attractiveness of tourism in Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands. It is a wonderful project. I am sure the co-operation between the local authorities involved and the Department will continue to ensure the restoration of the full Hymany Way.

Mental Health Services Provision

I thank the Ceann Comhairle’s office for giving me the opportunity to raise this issue.

Mental health services in Tipperary were devastated in 2012 following the closure by the then Minister of State, Kathleen Lynch, of St. Michael's inpatient unit at South Tipperary General Hospital in Clonmel. That decision left north and south Tipperary with a mental health service which was not fit for purpose. It is important to note that all stakeholders at the time, namely, staff, patients, GPs and the public, were opposed to that closure. It meant that south Tipperary patients had to travel to Kilkenny for inpatient treatment while north Tipperary patients had to travel to Ennis. These units themselves were not fit for purpose. For confirmation, one only needs to look at various HIQA reports and a prosecution and conviction for failures in the Kilkenny unit. The units are overcrowded, leading to late admissions for Tipperary patients as well as early discharges. It is leading to serious transport difficulties for families and friends supporting patients. Outpatient services and community-based teams are understaffed and underfunded. They did not and still do not comply with A Vision for Change standards and staffing levels.

The Minister of State, Deputy Jim Daly, has accepted the closure of St. Michael's unit was wrong and should not have happened. I acknowledge the work done by the Minister of State, representatives of the Save of Our Acute Hospital Services committee and Members from Tipperary to reinstate inpatient beds in the county. I hope that work will come to fruition soon.

A specific promise made at the time of the closure was that there would be the construction of a purpose-built mental health crisis house in Clonmel. Seven years later, the public, patients and staff have seen little or no progress on this.

Will the Minister of State clarify the position regarding the construction of this unit? I have a number of questions for him which might help us ascertain exactly where this project is at. Will he indicate the timescale for the construction this crisis house project? Will he confirm that funding for it has been approved and is in place? Will he confirm also that the project and funding of it will not be affected by the overrun on the national children's hospital? Has formal approval for the project to go to tender been confirmed and, if so, when is it envisaged that will happen? When is it envisaged that construction will commence? Is there a targeted date for the completion of the construction of this unit?

The construction of a purpose built crisis house is urgently required. I ask the Minister of State to confirm today that it will be dealt with as a matter of urgency and that progress will be made in the tendering of the project and the commencement of construction of the unit.

Gabhaim buíochas leis an Leas-Cheann Comhairle as ucht an t-ábhar seo a roghnú inniu. I thank him for selecting this Topical Issue matter. I thank the Deputy for raising it. I have said here previously that one of the most admirable characteristics of any Deputy, or Senator for that matter, is consistency. I acknowledge Deputy Healy's consistency and thank him for his continuing interest in all areas related to mental health in the area he represents in Tipperary. He has continuously raised this issue and challenged us on it and I acknowledge the good work he has done on behalf of the mental health sector in promoting awareness of the issue in his local area.

Specifically on the issue of the construction of a crisis house in Clonmel, as the Deputy will be aware, I am quite familiar with the project. I have met him and his colleagues on a number of occasions and have visited the area and met them there also to view the services that are available and to see how we can progress this project. I am anxious to see the crisis house project in Clonmel developed as soon as possible. As the Deputy will be aware from our meetings, new building regulations have been introduced since the project was designed which, as the Deputy said, dates back seven years. New building regulations have had to be taken into account and that has been done. A detailed redesign has taken place accommodating the new building regulations, therefore we had to recost the project, which is being done. I am anxious to see this project included in the capital development plan, which will be launched shortly by my colleague, the Minister, Deputy Harris. There is nothing to stop it progressing from there.

As alluded to by the Deputy, I have been down in the area and have acknowledged there is an issue with accommodation and beds in the greater Tipperary area. I view this as an absolute priority on a national front and I do not say that lightly. People in every constituency are looking for something to be done in their area but I have no difficulty whatsoever in saying that I would like to see the crisis house project in Tipperary top of the list of projects coming under the mental health area and to see that need being addressed because there is an issue there.

The Deputy will also know that my philosophy is very much to build a level of infrastructure at a lower level, and I do not like using the word "lower" but a reduced or a lower level of infrastructure for mental health. Thankfully the Jigsaw service will be rolled out in Tipperary, which the Deputy has publicly welcomed previously. We need more investment in that level of infrastructure to prevent the need for people having to access psychiatric beds. When we reflect on our history and look back to the 1960s there were 20,000 psychiatric inpatient beds in the country and all of them were filled. Today, there are fewer than 1,000. We have come a long way in how we deal with the challenges presented by people with mental health issues.

In the two years I have been in this job I have tried very much to refocus and reorientate the system towards having more proactive, bottom up supports, earlier intervention to prevent people having episodes of psychosis and such like which result in they sometimes having to go into care. We have to deal also with the issue of people presenting with acute mental health issues. I accept the challenges that exist in terms of accommodation and people having to travel to Kilkenny.

I am anxious to see this project progress as soon as the recosting is done, with which I do not envisage there will be any delay. I do not see any problem with having the funding available for it. This has been a top priority nationally. Thanks to the good work of the Deputy and his colleagues, they have ensured that it remains so. The people in the HSE are aware of my concerns and those of the Deputy and his colleagues regarding this project and our anxiety to see it proceed as quickly as possible. I certainly will do everything I can for my part to ensure that the crisis house project is built in Clonmel without delay.

I welcome the Minister of State's reply and thank him for the detail of it. I particularly welcome the fact that he believes this project is a priority issue for mental health services in Tipperary. The existing crisis house is not fit for purpose. It is an old building. It is particularly not fit for purpose having regard to modern psychiatry and modern standards. The construction of a purpose built unit for the purposes of a crisis house is necessary and an urgent priority.

I take this opportunity to welcome the Jigsaw project which the Minister of State mentioned. It is one we have sought for quite some time in Tipperary. It has been welcomed widely across the county.

I want to acknowledge briefly the work of the staff in the mental health services across Tipperary. They work above and beyond the call of duty. It is also important to recognise the work of many voluntary organisations across Tipperary which are working in the field of mental health. I welcome the Minister of State's reply and hope we will see JCBs on the site in the not too distant future.

I have said what I had to say regarding the specifics of the project. I wholeheartedly endorse it as a priority nationally and not only one for County Tipperary. I have no difficulty whatsoever in standing over that. I am determined to see it being developed and delivered for the people of Tipperary. We will continue the work we are doing in the other areas of mental health in the county.

I thank the Deputy and his colleagues who have continued to keep a keen focus on the area of mental health in County Tipperary. Many of his continuing efforts have resulted in decisions such as the Jigsaw project opening up in the area. I look forward to the next phase in the development of mental health services there.

I concur with what the Deputy said about the staff who deliver the services. Often people can be very quick to run down the services in the mental health area and say they are non-existent, not in place or not available but staff are working very hard in the delivery of services. We all hear the hard, tough stories. We would prefer we did not ever have to witness them and that nobody would have to go through some of these extremely upsetting episodes but many children and adults are availing of mental health services across County Tipperary on a daily basis being delivered by exceptional staff in a very challenging area. I concur with the Deputy in acknowledging the work and thanking the good people of Tipperary who have been delivering mental health services across the country during the past number of months and years.

Garda Resources

The issue I wish to raise with the Minister relates to policing and the Garda resources deployed in Rathcoole, County Dublin. I thank the Ceann Comhairle's office for allowing this debate. I specifically thank the Minister for his attendance to take this matter. This is not an area I raise often but there is a particular issue and it is important that it is addressed specifically.

In a response to a similar question a year ago, the Minister stated:

The Government is committed to ensuring strong and visible police presence throughout the country in order to maintain and strengthen community engagement, provide reassurance to citizens and to deter crime. To achieve this the Government has put in place a plan for an overall Garda workforce of 21,000 personnel by 2021 comprising 15,000 Garda members, 2,000 Reserve members and 4,000 civilians. We are making real, tangible progress in achieving this goal.

The Minister highlighted in the Dáil this morning the fact that there are now more than 14,000 gardaí. In all the stations in my constituency I am seeing the benefit of that but I am not seeing it in Rathcoole Garda station. I want to put some figures on the record. Often when I get replies they contain global figures referring to the Dublin metropolitan region, DMR and so forth. I want to compare two stations that are side by side. At the end of December 2012, there were 26 gardaí in Rathcoole and 95 in Clondalkin. Admittedly the Garda College in Templemore was closed and the number of gardaí fell, and that is reflected in what happened in the coming years. At the end of 2013 the number of gardaí in Rathcoole dropped to 23 and to 91 in Clondalkin. At the end of 2014, the number of gardaí in Rathcoole stood at 23 and there was a further drop in the number in Clondalkin to 89. At the end of 2015, the number in Rathcoole stood at 21 and the number in Clondalkin was 87.

At the end of 2015, there was a change, and we see the Garda numbers in Clondalkin increase. At the end of 2016, Garda numbers in Clondalkin increased to 94 but those in Rathcoole continued to decline to 19. At the end of 2017, Garda numbers in Clondalkin further increased to 97 and Rathcoole further declined to 14. This year, on the last date that I checked, there were 105 gardaí in Clondalkin and 14 in Rathcoole. As we are seeing Garda numbers increase, we are not seeing them going back to Rathcoole Garda station. At the end of 2012, we had twice as many gardaí in Rathcoole as we have today. The area has grown significantly in population. It is not a village. Policed from Rathcoole are Rathcoole, Newcastle, Saggart and Citywest. The area has increased in terms of population, retail and industry. In the rural parts of the constituency, around Redgap, etc., people feel insecure in their own homes.

There is a Garda station in Rathcoole and it is manned part time. The number of hours it is open, whether 10 a.m. to 12 noon or 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., is subject to a garda being available. It does not always open on those hours. With 13 or 14 gardaí in Rathcoole, there are units of two or three. If somebody is on holidays or sick, these are not efficient and effective units. There are simply not enough gardaí based in the Rathcoole area to deliver the type of policing service that the Minister stated he wanted, that is, "to ensure a strong and visible police presence throughout the country ...". That is not happening in Rathcoole.

At a time of restoration of numbers - I gave the Minister the Clondalkin numbers in parallel - it is the same in Lucan and in Ronanstown but Rathcoole has been in constant decline since 2012. The population, economic activity, retail and industry have grown but we are seeing a decline in numbers. The service is insufficient and unsatisfactory for the population that currently resides there.

I thank Deputy Curran for raising this issue.

Firstly, I reiterate for the House that the deployment of Garda resources is solely the responsibility of the Garda Commissioner and his management team. The distribution of Garda resources is constantly monitored taking into account all relevant and appropriate factors, including population and new and emerging crime trends.

Working with communities to tackle public disorder and reduce anti-social behaviour remains a key priority for the Garda Síochána. The Garda 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. This approach includes a strong focus on quality of life issues and collaboration with local authorities to help address the causes of anti-social behaviour.

With the accelerated recruitment of Garda members continuing this year, it provides the Commissioner with the ability to increase Garda numbers and visibility in all Garda divisions, including the DMR west division. Rathcoole Garda station forms part of the Clondalkin district in the Dublin metropolitan region, DMR, West Division. The Garda strength of the DMR west division, as of 30 April last, the latest date for which figures are readily available, was 715, of whom 200 are assigned to the Clondalkin district and 14 are assigned to Rathcoole Garda station. There are also 23 Garda Reserves and 63 Garda civilian staff attached to the DMR west division. It is envisaged that the DMR west Garda division will receive further allocations of probationer gardaí from the Garda College this year.

There is also provision for uniform and plain-clothes patrols within the district to support Garda operations, and support provided by divisional units, such as the divisional and district drugs units, roads policing personnel and community engagement personnel. Where appropriate, local gardaí are supported by a number of Garda national units, such as the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, the armed support units, the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau and the Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau, which also have had an increase in resources this year.

Additional recruitment of Garda staff will allow the Commissioner to redeploy a further 500 fully-trained gardaí from administrative duties to front-line policing over the course of this year. The injection of this large number of experienced officers into the field, along with the new recruits, will provide the Commissioner with the resources needed to deploy increasing numbers of gardaí to deliver, as Deputy Curran said, a visible effective and responsive policing service to communities in all divisions, including the DMR west division.

The Government has increased the budget for An Garda Síochána to €1.76 billion for 2019 in addition to a very significant capital investment, which includes €342 million for Garda ICT infrastructure between 2016 and 2021 to enable An Garda Síochána to deploy the latest cutting-edge technologies and €46 million for the Garda fleet. As of 30 April, there were 75 Garda vehicles assigned to the DMR west division.

While An Garda Síochána will continue to tackle anti-social problems head-on, it cannot eradicate the problem of anti-social behaviour alone. Specifically in relation to young offenders, it is also up to us as adults, particularly the parents and guardians, to ensure that children are raised to be respectful and law-abiding.

I thank the Minister for his reply. A number of weeks ago, Councillor Trevor Gilligan and myself attended a public meeting on this issue regarding resources in the greater Rathcoole area. It was very well attended. People spoke of their own particular incidents and the response from An Garda Síochána. It is not only the case that they want a Garda presence. There is a physical record of an increase in crime, as reported at the joint policing committees, JPCs. Burglary, for the first four months, in comparison to the previous ones, was up almost 50%. Criminal damage was up 47%. Theft from motor vehicles was up 67%. Public order incidents were up 57%.

The Minister stated in his reply that there would be a further deployment. I acknowledge fully that it is not up to the Minister to allocate the resources from Garda station to Garda station but, as a public representative for the area, an area whose population believes it is being ignored and is missing out, I see no evidence to suggest that any of the additional deployment that has occurred to date has materialised in the Rathcoole area. Therein lies the problem. DMR west may well be increasing, but the number of gardaí, at 14, is the lowest since last year, at 13. At 13 and 14, respectively, it is the lowest ever recorded. In every other station, we are seeing the increase in resources the Minister talked about. People in Rathcoole deserve the level of service the Minister talked about in terms of a physical presence. It is not happening.

I need the Minister to bring this point directly to the Commissioner and to say to him that the Government is making additional resources available, DMR west is benefitting from it, but the area around Rathcoole, Newcastle and Saggart has a minuscule number of gardaí, an ineffective and inefficient number to police the greater area that it is supposed to cover. I appeal to the Minister to make that plea to the Garda Commissioner. I acknowledge that the numbers are being deployed in DMR west. I am specifically saying we need to increase them in Rathcoole.

There are 715 gardaí in DMR west, of whom 200 are in the Clondalkin district. I assure Deputy Curran that the distribution of Garda resources in terms of personnel is monitored constantly. It takes into account all the appropriate and relevant factors, for example, crime trends in the area and the valid point, as raised by Deputy Curran, of the population distribution across the district. I accept what Deputy Curran said in terms of that growing urban area to the south west of Dublin.

It is important that these issues remain closely monitored by the Garda Síochána but I said that Garda numbers alone will not deal with the issues raised. While working with communities to tackle public disorder and reduce anti-social behaviour remains a key priority for the Garda, we need to ensure there is a strong focus on quality of life issues.

We also need to ensure that there is a strong focus on collaboration with stakeholders in local communities, that local authorities are involved and that everybody is working together to help and assist gardaí to eradicate anti-social behaviour. It means drilling down to the root causes of anti-social behaviour. I, of course, accept that Garda numbers is an issue and I will be happy to convey to the Garda authorities the specific point raised by Deputy Curran about an individual Garda station, namely, Rathcoole.