Policing Authority

Ceisteanna (26)

Mick Wallace

Ceist:

26. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality her plans to strengthen the current legislation which established the Policing Authority, in particular with regard to oversight and accountability, following the ongoing crises surrounding senior Garda management; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15695/17]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The establishment of the new Policing Authority has been both a welcome and necessary addition to the policing landscape in the State. It has brought a dedicated layer of public accountability to the operation of policing services and it represents one of the most significant and progressive reforms to the justice sector over recent years. Indeed, the recent transfer of the appointment function in relation to the senior ranks is a particularly important signal of this reform.

I strongly believe in the relatively short time since its establishment that the Authority is making a significant impact.

Since its establishment, it has focused, as a matter of priority, on its functions which have statutory deadlines and reform significance.

The Authority is, of course, playing a crucial role in relation to issues which have arisen recently in the area of roads policing.

While there are no immediate plans for changes in the legislation governing the Authority, the Deputy will be aware that the Government has indicated its intention to have a fundamental review in relation to policing matters.

British-Irish Co-operation

Ceisteanna (27)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

27. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality if the issue of British undercover agents operating here was raised with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, James Brokenshire; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8605/17]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Charlie Flanagan, met recently with his counterpart the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, James Brokenshire MP, and as part of their wider discussions on issues of mutual interest he raised with him concerns that have been expressed previously in this House on matters relating to the UK's Undercover Policing Inquiry. The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland agreed to convey those concerns to the Home Secretary.

The British Government established the inquiry in 2015 in order to investigate and to report on the undercover police operations conducted by English and Welsh police forces in England and Wales since 1968. It is chaired by Lord Justice Christopher Pitchford. As the Deputy will appreciate, the establishment of the Pitchford Inquiry and its terms of reference were and are matters solely for the British Government in accordance with UK law. It is established under the UK Inquiries Act 2005 which does not provide powers for extraterritorial inquiry.

It is my understanding that representations seeking the extension of the inquiry's terms of reference outside England and Wales were made previously by the authorities in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Germany, and that the UK Home Secretary having considered those representations decided that the terms of reference of the inquiry would not be extended. Although in this context the question of my seeking the extension of a UK inquiry does not arise, as I have indicated to the House previously, should anything emerge from the findings of the Pitchford Inquiry that would be relevant to policing in this jurisdiction I will consider it fully and take any action that may be required.

Garda Resources

Ceisteanna (28)

Darragh O'Brien

Ceist:

28. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality the action being taken to address the 41% fall in the number of Garda traffic corps in the Dublin northern metropolitan region since 2011. [15763/17]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The Garda Commissioner, who is responsible for the allocation of Garda resources, has indicated in her Policing Plan for 2017 a commitment to increase the number of personnel dedicated to traffic duties by 10% to reflect the increasing numbers of personnel across the entire organisation and which should also lead to better outcomes in relation to road traffic enforcement.

An Garda Síochána’s Modernisation and Renewal Programme also sets out key strategic objectives for Road Policing which will inform and guide An Garda Síochána's Road Policing plans over the next 5 years. Under the Programme, the Garda Commissioner will undertake a number of road safety traffic enforcement initiatives, including expanding the use of technology and increasing checkpoints.

This Government is committed to ensuring visible, effective and responsive policing throughout the country in order to strengthen community engagement, provide reassurance to citizens and prevent crime. To make this a reality for all, the Government has in place a plan to achieve an overall Garda workforce of 21,000 personnel by 2021 comprising 15,000 Garda members, 2,000 Reserve members and 4,000 civilians. In 2017, funding has been provided for the recruitment of 800 Garda recruits and up to 500 civilians to support the wide ranging reform plan in train in An Garda Síochána. Funding has also been provided for the recruitment of 300 Garda Reserves.

Given that there was no recruitment for a period of five years, it will take some time before there are fully trained officers available to adequately replace personnel that have retired across the entire organisation, including the Traffic Corps. However, the Commissioner has confirmed that the personnel requirement of the Garda Traffic Corps is currently being assessed to identify the most vulnerable areas in regard to serious traffic collisions and the level of compliance with Road Traffic Legislation. I understand that the Assistant Commissioner with responsibility for Roads Policing is currently assessing the capacity of Divisions and Districts to identify and target areas where An Garda Síochána could accelerate the deployment of personnel to traffic in 2017. The filling of any vacancies identified will be conducted on a structured basis and will be further enhanced with the recently renewed recruitment campaigns to An Garda Síochána. The Deputy will also be aware that the Garda Commissioner has in the last few days announced the restructuring of traffic policing with the creation of a new Roads Policing Unit to be led by Assistant Commissioner Michael Finn.

Ireland has over a number of years developed a multi-agency approach to road safety through the involvement of a number of agencies working in partnership, under the aegis of the Road Safety Strategy. Under this year's Policing Plan, new measures will be explored with partner agencies in relation to driver compliance and the promotion of a safe and crime-free road network. The Plan also points to the enhancement of the use of technology to continue to deprive criminals of the use of the road network and to develop policing capabilities. Among the road traffic initiatives identified in the Plan are the strengthening and re-development of the Traffic Corps to tackle all forms of criminality on our road network and ongoing planning, risk assessment and operational preparation for major emergencies in conjunction with emergency management partners.

Road traffic legislation is, of course, also enforced as part of the day to day duties of members of An Garda Síochána. Both targeted and general methods of enforcement have a valuable role to play in An Garda Síochána's enforcement programme, which targets locations with a view to preventing the commission of offences, detecting errant motorists, changing their behaviour and ultimately reducing death and injuries on our roads.

Asylum Applications

Ceisteanna (29)

Catherine Connolly

Ceist:

29. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality the position regarding the administrative deadline for the return of IPO2 forms; the number of forms which were returned within the deadline of 20 days, printed on the letters which were received by applicants from the IPO; the number of forms returned incomplete with requests for deadline extension; the number of forms returned incomplete without request for deadline extension; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15746/17]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I am advised by the Chief International Protection Officer (CIPO) who, under the International Protection Act, 2015, is independent in the performance of his functions, that the completion of the Application for Protection Questionnaire (IPO 2) is a matter for applicants who may consult a legal representative as appropriate.

As the information sent to applicants for international protection in January/February 2017 made clear, there was no strict deadline for the return of the questionnaire with the time-frame mentioned being purely administrative in nature. Flexibility has been provided by the International Protection Office (IPO) to applicants in relation to the filling out of the form and its return. Clarification in this regard has been included on the IPO website and in communications between that Office and non-governmental organisations.

I am also advised by the CIPO that, as of 24 March 2017, of the approximately 3,100 questionnaires which were issued to applicants covered by the transitional provisions in the 2015 Act, approximately 1,730 have been returned to date. The other information requested by the Deputy would require a disproportionate amount of time and resources to provide.

As has been pointed out in information material issued to applicants by the IPO, supplementary information, including that which may not have been provided in the initial return, can be provided to that Office up to two weeks prior to the date of an applicant's scheduled interview. This time-scale will facilitate the translation of documents where required and ensure that the IPO interviewer has all the relevant papers available and considered in advance of the interview date.

Garda Procedures

Ceisteanna (30)

Jim O'Callaghan

Ceist:

30. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality the actions An Garda Síochána is taking to improve the workings of the fixed charge notice system and the recording of breathalyser tests; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15664/17]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I would like to emphasise at the outset that I have met with the Garda Commissioner and the Chairperson of the Policing Authority in the past days and have communicated my very serious concerns in relation to the significant road traffic enforcement errors that have come to light following the completion of extensive internal audits by An Garda Síochána.

The Deputy will be aware that An Garda Síochána has confirmed that it has put solutions in place to deal with the procedural and practice issues that have been detected to ensure that such errors do not recur. Specifically, I have been assured by An Garda Síochána that a permanent and comprehensive IT solution is now in place to cover the majority of FCPS issues identified and An Garda Síochána is satisfied that the errors that occurred cannot be repeated. In the case of breath tests/Mandatory Alcohol Testing, I am informed that An Garda Síochána initially put in place new paper based recording and verification processes, and, in November 2016, a new specific data recording IT upgrade was installed on the Garda PULSE system. The net effect of the new IT upgrade was that personnel now have to record the serial number of the device used for each breath test plus the meter reading before and after the checkpoint was concluded. Data from the device is now used to verify the total number of breath tests conducted at each checkpoint.

Insofar as the 14,700 people convicted of road traffic offences in court following the incorrect issuing of a summons are concerned, An Garda Síochána has established a dedicated support helpline for members of the public with queries in relation to their case. An Garda Síochána is also writing to all affected members of the public, explaining what has happened and outlining the solution to rectify the situation. An Garda Síochána has indicated that it has been advised by the Director of Public Prosecutions and Courts Service that these 14,700 cases must be brought back before the Courts at Circuit Court level with a view to requesting that the erroneous convictions can be set aside. An Garda Síochána has established a dedicated team to this end and is liaising with the Court Services to expedite this process. As such, members of the public affected by the road traffic enforcement errors referred to are requested to await the aforementioned correspondence from An Garda Síochána which will provide further clarification on the matter.

The Deputy will be aware that the Garda Commissioner has:

- announced the restructuring of traffic policing with the creation of a new Roads Policing Unit to be led by Assistant Commissioner Mick Finn;

- announced the creation of a dedicated team under newly-appointed Assistant Commissioner Michael O’Sullivan to investigate in detail the MATs issue, including with a view to identifying and holding responsible for their actions any Garda members, whether at junior, supervisory or management level, who acted improperly; and

- committed to forwarding the report of this investigation to the Policing Authority and Department of Justice and Equality when completed.

Assistant Commissioner Finn outlined new arrangements agreed this week with the Medical Bureau on Roads Safety to the effect that that body would supply An Garda Síochána with its data on breath-testing devices on a quarterly basis, in order to ensure an independent benchmark against which Garda data can be measured. The MBRS will shortly be tendering for new breath testing equipment. New equipment which is available in the market place has the capacity to record the time, GPS location and number of persons breath-tested, and has the capacity to download the information automatically reducing the chances of errors occurring in the data.

Notwithstanding any internal review the Government believes that an external investigation into these two specific matters needs be carried out.

The Government believes the level of public concern is now so profound that it may now be time to conduct a thorough, comprehensive and independent root-and-branch review of An Garda Síochána. That is clearly a proposal that will require further detailed consideration by the Government.

The Government also believes that any such proposal should command widespread support in the Oireachtas and accordingly be the subject of consultation with the Opposition, and ultimately approval by the Oireachtas.

The Garda Commissioner has been in direct contact with the Policing Authority in relation to the matters referred to in the Deputy's question and the Chairperson of the Policing Authority, Josephine Feehily, has confirmed that the Authority will:

- have an independent professional audit undertaken of the steps taken to resolve the issues; and

- oversee the investigation being undertaken by Assistant Commissioner O’Sullivan.

I welcome the fact that the focus of the Authority's next public meeting with the Garda Commissioner will be on road traffic enforcement. This public meeting will be held on 27 April 2017 and will provide a most timely opportunity for An Garda Síochána to engage with the Authority and the general public on these key procedural and practice issues that are now before us. The reason that I prioritised and set up the Authority was to shine a light on and examine issues such as these.

I will continue to maintain close contact with the Garda Commissioner and the Chairperson of the Policing Authority in relation to these matters.

Garda Industrial Relations

Ceisteanna (31)

Jim O'Callaghan

Ceist:

31. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality if she will include the Garda representative organisations in the working group that is examining industrial relations structures for An Garda Síochána. [15666/17]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

This Working Group has been established to consider the technical legislative changes required to provide the Garda Associations with access to the Workplace Relations Commission and the Labour Court. This will involve consideration of a number of important and complex issues. The Group brings together officials from the Government Departments and bodies with the relevant expertise and responsibility in these areas and Mr John Murphy, retired Secretary General in the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation is chairing the Group.

I do, of course, accept that the Garda Associations have a very significant interest in these matters and this is not a question of me excluding the Garda Associations from this process. The Working Group is to report to me, as Minister, with proposals to amend legislation. Clearly the Working Group will have to take a view on what are very complex and difficult issues and, in doing that, they must consult with all interested parties, including the Garda Associations. I have made this very clear to the Associations and to the Chair of the Working Group.

Initial consultation sessions with the Garda Associations took place on 16 March and I understand that the Working Group will shortly circulate a consultation paper to the Associations setting out options in relation to the key issues under consideration. Further consultations will follow between then and the completion of this phase of the work in May. It is vitally important that the Associations take advantage of the opportunity being provided, to engage positively and constructively with the Working Group, in order to ensure that any conclusions reached or proposals made by the Group are informed by the views of the Associations.

The Associations are not being excluded from this process; I have ensured that they are being provided with every opportunity to engage with the Working Group and to make their views known. This will continue through to the conclusion of the current phase of the work of the Group which focusses on the legislation. The second phase of the Group’s work concerns internal industrial relations processes in An Garda Síochána. I want to confirm here today that I will ensure that the Associations are more integrated into that phase of the process and I have asked my officials to work through how this might be arranged with the Chair of the Working Group and with the Associations. However, for the time being, where the focus of the Group is on the legislation, I am satisfied that the arrangements put in place are appropriate and reflect the differing roles and responsibilities of the Government and the Associations.

Direct Provision System

Ceisteanna (32)

Bríd Smith

Ceist:

32. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality her plans to reform the direct provision system in view of the continued problems experienced by asylum applicants in this system; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15659/17]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

Services for all protection applicants (those in State provided accommodation or those who live in the community) are delivered under the Government policies of direct provision and dispersal. The Government commissioned retired Judge Dr. Bryan McMahon to Chair a Working Group to carry out a report into the protection process and the system of direct provision and that report was published in June of 2015.

The report forms the basis for ongoing improvements across the entirety of the system involving all relevant Government Departments and Agencies.

The Programme for a Partnership Government (May 2016) states that "Long durations in direct provision are acknowledged to have a negative impact on family life. We are therefore committed to reforming the Direct Provision system, with particular focus on families and children.”

On 23 February 2017, the latest audit of the implementation of the recommendations contained in that report was published. This shows that some 121 of the recommendations are now implemented, with a further 38 recommendations partially implemented or in progress. In total, 92% of the 173 recommendations are implemented, partially implemented or in progress, a significant increase on the figure of 80% we reported on last June.

The International Protection Act 2015 was commenced on 31 December 2016. A key feature of this new legislation is the introduction of a new single application procedure which will, in time, significantly accelerate the protection determination process and by extension will reduce the length of time which applicants spend in State provided accommodation.

The new processing arrangements will determine certainty of status at an earlier stage for those entitled to international protection within the State.

A number of recommendations from the McMahon report in relation to improvements to accommodation and services are also being rolled out. The following are some examples:

- The introduction of full independent living at the Mosney Accommodation centre - each family is now able to acquire fresh food to their liking so they may prepare meals themselves. The new home cooking arrangements in Mosney went live on 23 January 2017.

- Cooking facilities are being rolled out to other centres including the State owned centres (Killarney, Tralee, Athlone, Knocklisheen in Limerick and Kinsale Road in Cork) and to Ballyhaunis, Milstreet, St Patrick’s in Monaghan and any other centres in which families are resident.

- Teenagers rooms in centres to provide social areas for this age group.

Recommendations of the McMahon report that involve structural changes or improvements will be implemented as quickly as possible, with due consideration of possible fire safety, building regulation and planning issues.

The Department has also co-ordinated the preparation of a multi-departmental information booklet for persons who have been granted any type of ‘leave to remain’ in the State. The booklet contains practical and useful information for residents across housing, finances, healthcare, education as well as TV licences, public transport and other related matters and has been prepared with the assistance of the National Adult Literacy Agency (NALA) to ensure that it is presented in Plain English. The booklet has been translated into a number of languages.

In addition to the publication of the booklet, a number of NGOs have been awarded monies under the EU Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) specifically to provide assistance to move out of State provided accommodation. At the end of December 2016, there were approximately 450 persons with some form of status continuing to reside in State provided accommodation. Notwithstanding the current housing crisis, we are working with the NGO community and residents alike to ensure that those with permission to remain in the State are assisted in finding accommodation in communities across the country as soon as possible and that State provided accommodation remains available for those in most need.

Another key recommendation of the McMahon report was that the remit of the Ombudsman and the Ombudsman for Children should be extended to cover those who are living in State provided accommodation. This has now been implemented and both offices will begin to accept complaints with effect from Monday 3 April 2017.

As can be seen from the foregoing, significant improvements have either been implemented or are being implemented across all aspects of the system of supports for those in the protection process.

Garda Station Closures

Ceisteanna (33)

James Browne

Ceist:

33. Deputy James Browne asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality if any of the Garda stations closed in County Wexford in 2012 and 2013 are included in the six stations being examined for reopening under the pilot programme. [15767/17]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The Deputy will appreciate that the Garda Commissioner is primarily responsible for the effective and efficient use of the resources available to her, including in relation to Garda stations.

As the Deputy will be aware, the Garda Síochána District and Station Rationalisation Programme gave rise to the closure in 2012 and 2013 of some 139 Garda stations following the completion by An Garda Síochána of a comprehensive review of its district and station network. That review was undertaken with the objective of identifying opportunities to introduce strategic reforms to enhance service delivery, increase efficiency and streamline practices within the organisation. I have been advised by the Garda authorities that the closures have allowed front line Garda to be managed and deployed with greater mobility, greater flexibility and in a more focused fashion, particularly with regard to targeted police operations.

The Programme for Government commits the Government to ensuring a strong and visible police presence throughout the country in order to maintain and strengthen community engagement, provide reassurance to citizens and to deter crime. A cornerstone of this commitment is the Government plan to achieve an overall Garda workforce of 21,000 personnel by 2021 comprising 15,000 Garda members, 2,000 Reserve members and 4,000 civilians. Revisiting the decisions made to close Garda stations is also part of that commitment.

In this context, I have requested the Garda Commissioner, while fully cognisant of her statutory functions, to identify 6 stations for reopening on a pilot basis to determine possible positive impacts that such openings will have on criminal activity, with special emphasis on burglaries, theft and public order. The pilot will feed into the wider review being undertaken by the Garda Síochána Inspectorate, at the request of the Policing Authority, of the dispersal and use of resources available to An Garda Síochána in the delivery of policing services to local communities.

I understand that work is continuing in An Garda Síochána to identify the 6 stations for inclusion in the pilot and that consultations have taken place with relevant stakeholders, including the Policing Authority. In this context, I am sure that the Deputy would agree that a comprehensive and evidenced-based analysis should be carried out, taking account of all the relevant factors, before a final decision is made in respect of the stations to be reopened by the Commissioner.

I expect to receive a report from the Commissioner by the end of May in connection with the exercise.

Garda Resources

Ceisteanna (34)

Niamh Smyth

Ceist:

34. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality the capital investment being made in Garda resources in counties Cavan and Monaghan; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15593/17]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

As the Deputy will appreciate, the Garda Commissioner is responsible for the distribution of Garda resources in the State and I, as Minister, have no direct role in the matter.

The Cavan/Monaghan Division forms part of the Northern Region and the Garda strength of the Division, on the 28 February 2017, the latest date for which figures are readily available, was 321. There are also 13 Garda Reserves and 37 civilians attached to the Division. When appropriate, the work of local Gardaí is supported by a number of Garda national units such as the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau and the Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau.

I am advised by the Commissioner that, since the reopening of the Garda College in September 2014, some 839 recruits have attested as members of An Garda Síochána and have been assigned to mainstream duties nationwide, 21 of whom have been assigned to the Division. I am also advised that another 750 trainee Garda are scheduled to attest this year which will see Garda numbers, taking account of projected retirements, increase to around the 13,500 mark by year end - a net increase of 700 in the total Garda strength since recruitment recommenced.

The Deputy will be aware that the Garda Station Building and Refurbishment Programme includes the delivery of a new Garda station in Bailieborough and the provision of a Specialist Victim Interview Suite in Stradone. I understand that substantial progress has been made in relation to the acquisition of a site for the Bailieborough station and that, in advance of the development of the new station, essential remediation works at the existing Station were completed in 2016 to enhance the public office and general safety throughout the building.

In relation to the development at Stradone, I understand that the OPW is currently awaiting responses to the tender issued and, subject to the tendering and procurement process, the intention is that this project will commence later in the year.

In addition, there are some 60 Garda vehicles allocated to the Division.

The Programme for Government commits the Government to ensuring a strong and visible police presence throughout the country in order to maintain and strengthen community engagement, provide reassurance to citizens and to deter crime. A cornerstone of this commitment is the Government plan to achieve an overall Garda workforce of 21,000 personnel by 2021 comprising 15,000 Garda members, 2,000 Reserve members and 4,000 civilians. This year, the Government has provided funding for the recruitment of 800 Garda recruits and up to 500 civilians to support the wide ranging reform plan in train in An Garda Síochána. Funding has also been provided for the recruitment of 300 Garda Reserves. In order to continue to ensure seamless ongoing recruitment it is expected that a new competition for trainee Garda will be announced shortly.

This focus on investment in personnel is critical. The moratorium on recruitment introduced in 2010 resulted in a significant reduction in the strength of An Garda Síochána. We are now rebuilding the organisation and providing the Commissioner with the resources she needs to allow her to deploy increasing numbers of Gardaí across every Garda Division, including the Cavan/Monaghan Division, in the coming years.

This investment in personnel is complemented by substantial investment in resources across the board for An Garda Síochána. The Deputy will be aware of the significant resources that have been made available to An Garda Síochána under the Government's Capital Plan 2016 - 2021. In particular, some €205 million in additional funding for Garda ICT and €46 million for new Garda vehicles has been allocated over the lifetime of the plan. This investment will facilitate the provision of more effective policing services and I have no doubt that these new resources now coming on stream will see an increase in Garda visibility in our communities.

Policing Issues

Ceisteanna (35)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

35. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality the extent to which the Policing Authority has taken over its full responsibilities relating to An Garda Síochána; if the authority's attention was drawn to recent disclosures regarding the failed prosecution in respect of particular motoring offences and the wrongful prosecution in others; if a particular division and command structure within the force has had responsibility for such matters up to now; when the personnel with such responsibilities had their attention drawn to these issues; if a structure has been put in place to deal with any such issues in the future; if An Garda Síochána remains a united force fully focused on its functions and responsibilities including the working of each sector individually and collectively; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15689/17]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

As the Deputy is aware, the statutory basis for the Policing Authority is the Garda Síochána (Policing Authority and Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2015 which amended the Garda Síochána Act 2005.

The Authority’s role is to oversee the performance of the Garda Síochána in relation to policing services, to promote public awareness of policing matters and to promote and support the continuous improvements in policing in Ireland. Its mission is to drive excellent policing through valued and effective oversight and governance.

Earlier this year, the Authority assumed its full range of statutory functions when regulations governing the appointment and removal of members of An Garda Síochána were approved.

The Deputy refers to the issue of the failed prosecution in respect of particular motoring offences and the absence of fixed charge notices. I have no direct role in the enforcement of Road Traffic legislation, which is an operational matter for the Garda Commissioner. However, I have outlined my serious concerns with the Garda Commissioner and the Chairperson of the Policing Authority, with regard to the fixed charge notice issue. I have made it clear to the Commissioner that this error has to be fully addressed and a new system identified to avoid a reoccurrence.

The Chairperson of the Policing Authority, Josephine Feehily, has confirmed to me that the Authority will continue to examine this matter, as part of its oversight role.

Property Registration Authority Administration

Ceisteanna (36)

Danny Healy-Rae

Ceist:

36. Deputy Danny Healy-Rae asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality the reason for the delays in processing some transactions in the Land Registry; the reason more staff cannot be delegated to deal with the backlog which seems to take up to three or four years in some cases for persons trying to rectify their titles and ownerships; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15536/17]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I am advised that the Property Registration Authority which manages the Land Registry and Registry of Deeds expects to complete some 200,000 Land Registry transactions in 2017. Applications submitted that are fully in order for registration and that do not result in the raising of queries are dealt with in a very timely and efficient manner. In 2017 to date, in excess of 70% of cases in order for registration which do not require a change to the map or examination of title are completed within nine days or less, while more than 80% of such cases are dealt with within 14 days or less. Where a case is urgent and is brought to the attention of the PRA it will, in accordance with its customer service policy, deal with the matter expeditiously.

The PRA had some 99,959 transactions on hand as at end March 2017 which represents about six months' work. 22% of the transactions on hand are subject to query - such cases cannot therefore be completed until a satisfactory response is received. The PRA has indicated that there is a continuing high rate of rejection - these are transactions that have been received by the PRA but are not in order for registration and must be returned to the lodging party. In 2017 to date, there has been a rejection rate of 15%. Factors that may impact on the completion times may include investigation of title requirements, the completeness of the documentation presented, the need to raise additional queries and mapping requirements.

Certain applications, including First Registration applications, applications made under right-of-way by prescription and applications for registration based on long or adverse possession are legally complex and generally require various queries to be raised by the lodging party. In addition, notice must be served on all interested parties and appropriate time allowed for objections which can run for some time. The PRA must be fully satisfied that a case is fully grounded, the nature of the title proved and that all interested parties' concerns have been fully considered before registering a State guaranteed title. By their nature, such applications, of necessity and legislation, may take a long time to process.

Of the cases currently on hand, some 13% relate to First Registration applications. This is reflective of a large intake of such cases since the extension of compulsory first registration to the entire country in 2011. The PRA is addressing this particular area of concern through a number of mechanisms. Firstly, First Registration applications may be certified by a Solicitor in which case full examination of title is not necessary. In such cases a First Registration case is completed within three to four months. Secondly, PRA management has put in place an action plan including targeted resources and business process improvements in case management to deal with the First Registration arrears. I am advised that further options are being considered including the assigning of additional staff with specific skills and experience of investigation of title.

In addition to the measures specific to First Registration, outlined above, the PRA has put in place a number of initiatives to enhance its engagement with solicitors, who generally submit applications for registration. This includes a 'solicitor relationship project', where the PRA has established structures to assist certain solicitors with their applications in order to reduce the level of errors and therefore the length of time the process can take. The PRA has also developed a series of guides and videos for solicitors, again to help improve the quality of applications lodged - these are expected to go live on the PRA's website in Quarter 2 of 2017. Business process improvement training is being provided for staff in key areas, with a view to identifying and implementing more efficient processes. Staff training more generally has been enhanced to upskill the large number of new staff members in the organisation. These measures, allied to restructuring of the PRA and advances in the use of technology are expected to yield greater efficiency over time and are monitored closely by the Board of the Authority.

Garda Reserve

Ceisteanna (37)

Jack Chambers

Ceist:

37. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality the Garda Reserve numbers in each Garda division for each of the past five years and to date in 2017; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15751/17]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

As the Deputy will appreciate, the Garda Commissioner is responsible for the distribution of resources, including personnel, among the various Garda Divisions and I, as Minister, have no direct role in the matter. Garda management keeps the distribution of resources under continual review in the context of crime trends and policing priorities so as to ensure that the optimum use is made of these resources.

This Government is committed to ensuring a 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 make this a reality for all, the Government has in place a plan to achieve an overall Garda workforce of 21,000 personnel by 2021 comprising 15,000 Garda members, 2,000 Reserve members and 4,000 civilians. This year, funding has been provided for the recruitment of 800 Garda recruits and up to 500 civilians to support the wide ranging reform plan in train in An Garda Síochána. Funding has also been provided for the recruitment of 300 Garda Reserves.

I was pleased to recently announce the launch of a new recruitment campaign for Garda Reserves in pursuance of the Programme for Government commitment to increase the strength of the Reserve to 2,000 by 2021. Garda Reserve members act in a supportive role undertaking local patrols and other crime reduction measures. They have undergone training in many of the skills required to be effective full-time members of An Garda Síochána and it is important that we build on the very real contribution that they are making to the policing of communities right across the country.

I would encourage anyone interested in pursuing policing as a career to consider first becoming a member of the Reserve where they can see at first-hand what being a member of An Garda Síochána actually involves. The competition is being run by the Public Appointments Service on behalf of the Garda Commissioner and applications can be made online by 13 April, 2017 through www.publicjobs.ie.

For the Deputy's information I have set out in the following table, as provided by the Commissioner, the strength of the Garda Reserve in each Division from 2012 to 28 February 2017, the latest date for which figures are readily available.

As the Deputy is aware, there has been a substantial reduction in the strength of the Reserve in recent years. The fall-off arises from a range of factors, not least the lifting in 2014 of the moratorium on recruitment of trainee Gardaí which has affected Reserve numbers in two ways - firstly approximately 200 serving Reserves have successfully applied to become trainee Gardaí, and secondly, resources in both An Garda Síochána and in the Public Appointments Service have been focused on delivering an accelerated programme of recruitment of full time members of An Garda Síochána. I am sure that the Deputy will agree, notwithstanding the very valuable contribution of Reserve members throughout the country, that it was the right decision, with finite resources, to prioritise the running of recruitment campaigns to replenish the full-time ranks of An Garda Síochána over the last three years.

Garda Reserve Strength 2012 - 28 February 2017

Division

2012

2013

2014

2015

2016

2017

DMR South Central

64

77

80

66

48

39

DMR North Central

50

71

73

59

42

40

DMR North

63

59

61

57

49

49

DMR East

17

20

20

19

15

14

DMR South

47

51

45

35

26

24

DMR West

59

65

64

51

28

27

Waterford

31

36

34

32

24

22

Wexford

29

32

37

37

22

21

Tipperary

36

41

42

28

23

22

Kilkenny/Carlow

33

40

38

34

26

26

Cork City

58

73

68

65

48

48

Cork North

20

30

29

24

16

16

Cork West

27

26

29

23

12

12

Kerry

26

36

32

31

21

20

Limerick

47

52

51

53

36

34

Donegal

28

28

26

27

21

21

Cavan/Monaghan

20

25

23

19

14

13

Sligo/Leitrim

21

24

27

27

21

21

Louth

45

55

52

41

33

29

Clare

18

15

13

8

7

6

Mayo

31

35

35

32

23

23

Galway

64

69

63

43

36

36

Roscommon/Longford

18

20

15

11

11

10

Westmeath

22

27

25

20

13

13

Meath

33

44

42

33

18

18

Kildare

24

41

41

30

22

22

Laois/Offaly

31

31

28

24

19

18

Wicklow

29

41

31

24

21

22

Total

991

1164

1124

953

695

666

Garda Deployment

Ceisteanna (38)

James Browne

Ceist:

38. Deputy James Browne asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality the number of new Garda recruits assigned to the Wexford Garda division in each year since Garda recruitment resumed in 2014; and the attested personnel strength of the Wexford Garda division in September 2014 and at the end of February 2017. [15766/17]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

This Government is committed to ensuring a strong and visible police presence throughout the country in order to maintain and strengthen community engagement, provide reassurance to citizens and deter crime. To make this a reality for all, the Government has in place a plan to achieve an overall Garda workforce of 21,000 personnel by 2021 comprising 15,000 Garda members, 2,000 Reserve members and 4,000 civilians.

This plan is well on course to being achieved. This year, funding has been provided for the recruitment of 800 Garda recruits and up to 500 civilians to support the wide ranging reform plan in train in An Garda Síochána. Funding has also been provided for the recruitment of 300 Garda Reserves.

I am advised that, since the reopening of the Garda College in September 2014, there has been a total intake of some 1,400 new recruits with another 600 scheduled to enter the College by the end of this year. I am informed by the Commissioner that some 839 recruits have attested as members of An Garda Síochána and have been assigned to mainstream duties nationwide, 28 of whom have been assigned to the Wexford Division. I am also informed that another 750 trainee Garda are scheduled to attest this year which will see Garda numbers, taking account of projected retirements, increase to around the 13,500 mark by year end - a net increase of 700 in the total Garda strength since recruitment recommenced.

This focus on investment in personnel is critical. The moratorium on recruitment introduced in 2010 resulted in a significant reduction in the strength of An Garda Síochána. We are now rebuilding the organisation and providing the Commissioner with the resources she needs to allow her to deploy increasing numbers of Gardaí across every Garda Division, including the Wexford Division in the coming years.

In so far as the allocation of newly attested Gardaí is concerned, this is a matter for the Garda Commissioner. I am assured by the Commissioner that the needs of all Garda Divisions are fully considered when determining the allocation of resources. However, it is important to keep in mind that newly attested Gardaí have a further 16 months of practical and class-room based training to complete in order to receive their BA in Applied Policing. To ensure that they are properly supported and supervised and have opportunities to gain the breadth of policing experience required, the Commissioner's policy is to allocate them to specially designated training stations which have the required training and development structures and resources in place, including trained Garda tutors and access to a permanently appointed supervisory Sergeant who is thoroughly familiar with their responsibilities under the training programme.

For ease of reference I have provided, for the record, a breakdown of the detailed information requested in relation to the number of newly attested Garda allocated to the Wexford Division, since the first attestation of trainee Garda in April 2015 and the number of Garda assigned to the Wexford Division on 30 September 2014 and 28 February 2017, the latest date for which figures are readily available.

Year

Personnel Strength

Number of newly attested Garda

2014

251

n/a

2015

255

15

2016

258

10

2017

267

3

Gambling Legislation

Ceisteanna (39, 62)

Noel Rock

Ceist:

39. Deputy Noel Rock asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality if she will consider introducing legislation enforcing gambling debts to be paid by casinos, bookmakers and online gambling services to customers and vice versa; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15528/17]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Jim O'Callaghan

Ceist:

62. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality the reason for the delay in publishing gambling legislation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15668/17]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 39 and 62 together.

Section 36 on the Gaming and Lotteries Act 1956 provides that gaming and wagering contracts are void and no action shall lie for the recovery of money alleged to have been won or lost. This is a long standing provision of public policy.

In the case of Sporting Index Limited v John O'Shea [2015] INEC 407, the High Court found that the Irish public policy against enforcement of gambling bets outweighed the rights, under the Brussels Regulation, to have judgments of EU courts enforced in Member States. In the case very recently reported from the Circuit Civil Court, a person was denied full payment of a claimed win on a gaming machine. Again, the Court pointed to the long standing public policy on non-enforcement of gambling debts. These two particular cases may not be typical of normal interaction between gaming operators and their clients and we should not be alarmist.

While the General Scheme of the Gambling Control Bill in 2013 proposed the ending of the centuries old ban on legal enforcement of gambling debts as a feature of public policy, I am of the view that the matter would bear significant further consideration both by the Government and by the Oireachtas. This consideration would have to include: the conditions on how gambling debts might be made enforceable by our courts, would it apply only to regulated and licensed forms of gambling and the impact of standard commercial practices, consumer protection and provision of credit.

We would need to think very carefully as to the full range of possible consequences for all parties concerned. I have no decided view at this point, as to whether we should make this change to public policy. I welcome the views that Deputies may have to offer.

As I have very recently conveyed to the House, it remains the intention to proceed with gambling legislation at the earliest opportunity. The preparation of a Gambling Control Bill continues on that basis. However, it should be acknowledged that it will require some significant updating to take account of developments since 2013. The preparation of legislation will be a major and complex undertaking. Gambling is now a huge multi-billion euro economic activity, with significant cross-border and electronic on-line operations. I have special responsibility in this area and with Departmental officials am actively engaged in further consideration and research, including consultations with relevant stakeholders. While the exact nature of new regulatory approaches with regard to all forms of gambling activities remains to be decided, we should be aware that the outcome will have resource implications.

I should also add that work on the preparation of the General Scheme of the Courts and Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill is at an advanced stage in the Department. This Bill will contain some early amendments to gaming legislation providing for a range of useful modernisation and clarification measures to the outdated Gaming and Lotteries Act 1956. In particular, it would address issues concerning the minimum age for gambling activities, authorising realistic stake and prize amounts and a clearer setting out of the circumstances for the permitting and conduct of certain gaming and lottery activities.

Good Friday Agreement

Ceisteanna (40)

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

40. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality if she will ensure that adequate resources are provided for the Commission for the Location of Victims' Remains in view of the urgent need to make further progress in the searches for the disappeared; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15662/17]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The Independent Commission for the Location of Victims’ Remains (ICLVR) was established by the Irish and British Governments in 1999 as one among the actions to acknowledge and address the suffering of the victims of violence as a necessary element of reconciliation in the context of the Peace Process. The ICLVR's task is to facilitate the location of the remains of a number of persons who were killed and buried secretly by paramilitary organisations during the troubles.

I know that Deputy Smith, and others in this House, have a long-standing interest in this issue. The families of the victims have endured a very unique tragedy, not just in having lost a loved one, but having been denied for so long information about the burial places of their loved ones.

I can assure the Deputy and, indeed, the families of the Disappeared that the ICLVR’s investigation team has had and will continue to have the resources it needs to carry out its difficult task. The Government will continue in co-operation with our British counterparts to support this important work.

However, as the Deputy will know the ICLVR’s work is fundamentally driven by information. This is the key resource to support its efforts and anyone who has any information on any of the outstanding cases should bring it to the ICLVR without delay.

The only aim of the ICLVR is to locate the victims’ remains in order that they may be returned to their families to receive a decent burial. In this way the families will then have a grave at which to grieve and to remember. To date, 12 of the ICLVR’s cases have been located and the ICLVR is continuing its inquiries in relation to the remaining four cases – Joe Lynskey, Columba McVeigh, Robert Nairac and Seamus Ruddy – and I can assure the families of my and the Government's continued full support for this ongoing humanitarian work.

Immigration Policy

Ceisteanna (41)

Anne Rabbitte

Ceist:

41. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality her plans to assist undocumented Brazilians resident here. [15526/17]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I am on record in the House many times previously, most recently on 16 February 2017, as saying that I have no plans to introduce a general regularisation scheme for those who are currently undocumented in the State. Any such proposal could give rise to very large, unpredictable and potentially very costly impacts across the full range of public and social services. Furthermore, there may well be significant implications for the operation of the Common Travel Area, particularly in the context of Britain withdrawing from the European Union. Any proposal in this regard would have to be very carefully considered. It is important to recognise that in most cases a person becomes undocumented through their own actions by making the choice to remain in Ireland without immigration permission as opposed to the alternative of leaving the State. It is always open to persons in an undocumented situation to present their case on its individual merits to the immigration authorities. Such cases would be carefully considered before a decision is made and it is reasonable for the State to expect that the affected persons would respect that decision what ever that may be.

Garda Procedures

Ceisteanna (42)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

42. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality the extent to which internal system failures have been identified in An Garda Síochána with particular reference to recent revelations; the degree to which such failures have been attributed to specific sectors; the extent to which the causes have been identified; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15690/17]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I would like to emphasise at the outset that I have met with the Garda Commissioner and the Chairperson of the Policing Authority in the past days and have communicated my very serious concerns in relation to the significant road traffic enforcement errors that have come to light following the completion of extensive internal audits by An Garda Síochána.

The Deputy will be aware that An Garda Síochána has confirmed that it has put solutions in place to deal with the procedural and practice issues that have been detected to ensure that such errors do not recur. In addition, the Garda Commissioner has:

- announced the restructuring of traffic policing with the creation of a new Roads Policing Unit to be led by Assistant Commissioner Mick Finn;

- announced the creation of a dedicated team under newly-appointed Assistant Commissioner Michael O’Sullivan to investigate in detail the MATs issue, including with a view to identifying and holding responsible for their actions any Garda members, whether at junior, supervisory or management level, who acted improperly; and

- committed to forwarding the report of this investigation to the Policing Authority and Department of Justice and Equality when completed.

As such, the Deputy will appreciate that it is not possible to identify specific internal system failures in An Garda Síóchána until such time as Assistant Commissioner O'Sullivan's investigation is completed.

Notwithstanding any internal review the Government believes that an external investigation into these two specific matters needs be carried out.

The Government believes the level of public concern is now so profound that it may now be time to conduct a thorough, comprehensive and independent root-and-branch review of An Garda Síochána. That is clearly a proposal that will require further detailed consideration by the Government.

The Government also believes that any such proposal should command widespread support in the Oireachtas and accordingly be the subject of consultation with the Opposition, and ultimately approval by the Oireachtas.

The Garda Commissioner has been in direct contact with the Policing Authority in relation to the matters referred to in the Deputy's question and the Chairperson of the Policing Authority, Josephine Feehily, has confirmed that the Authority will:

- have an independent professional audit undertaken of the steps taken to resolve the issues; and

- oversee the investigation being undertaken by Assistant Commissioner O’Sullivan.

I welcome the fact that the focus of the Authority's next public meeting with the Garda Commissioner will be on road traffic enforcement. This public meeting will be held on 27 April 2017 and will provide a most timely opportunity for An Garda Síochána to engage with the Authority and the general public on these key procedural and practice issues that are now before us. The reason that I prioritised and set up the Authority was to shine a light on and examine issues such as these.

I will continue to maintain close contact with the Garda Commissioner and the Chairperson of the Policing Authority in relation to these matters.

Further detail on the Authority's role in examining this matter is outlined in a similar reply to the Deputy for answer today

Data Protection

Ceisteanna (43)

James Lawless

Ceist:

43. Deputy James Lawless asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality her views on the need for research data to enjoy a wider arc of potential future usage than standard data gathering practices may permit; if she has contributed to the debate at EU level on the GDPR in this instance; if preparations have been made to adopt standards along these lines; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15535/17]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

According to the "purpose limitation" principle set out in Article 5 of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), personal data should be collected for specified, explicit and legitimate purposes and not further processed in a manner that is incompatible with those purposes. However, paragraph 1(b) provides that further processing for archiving purposes in the public interest, scientific or historical research purposes or statistical purposes shall, subject to appropriate safeguards, not be considered incompatible with the initial purposes. Likewise, while the "storage limitation" principle requires that personal data should be kept in a form which permits identification of individuals for no longer than is necessary for the purposes for which the data are collected and processed, paragraph 1(e) provides that personal data may be stored for longer periods insofar as the data will  be processed solely for archiving purposes in the public interest, scientific or historical research purposes or statistical purposes subject to implementation of the appropriate technical and organisational measures required in order to safeguard the rights and freedoms of individuals.

Article 89 confirms that data processing for archiving purposes in the public interest, scientific or historical research purposes or statistical purposes is permitted, subject to appropriate safeguards for the rights and freedoms of individuals. It states that such safeguards should ensure that technical and organisational measures are put in place in order to ensure respect for the principle of data minimisation and cites the process of "pseudonymisation" of personal data as a possible safeguard if the purposes concerned can be fulfilled in that manner. It also permits Member States to provide for derogations from certain data subject rights where personal data are processed for these purposes. Proposals for legislation which are currently being prepared in my Department to give further effect to the GDPR will contain a number of derogations in line with Article 89.

It should be noted that the Regulation recognises the importance of research activity, including the processing of personal data for scientific purposes. For example, it specifically cites the significance of medical research which can yield new knowledge of great value concerning diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancer and depression. In the social science field, it acknowledges that research enables researchers to obtain essential knowledge about the long-term correlation of a number of social conditions such as unemployment and education with other life conditions. The processing of personal data for scientific research purposes includes technological development, fundamental research, applied research and privately-funded research.

I want to reassure the Deputy that I, together with my Department, have participated in a constructive and active manner in the negotiations which resulted in agreement on the GDPR. The GDPR will enter into force in May 2018 and all Government Departments are currently giving consideration to the manner in which its provisions will apply in practice to their respective areas of activity, including scientific research, and assessing the need for any necessary further action.

Garda Station Closures

Ceisteanna (44)

Darragh O'Brien

Ceist:

44. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality if Rush Garda station is included in the six stations being examined for reopening under the pilot programme. [15762/17]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The Deputy will appreciate that the Garda Commissioner is primarily responsible for the effective and efficient use of the resources available to her, including in relation to Garda stations.

As the Deputy will be aware, the Garda Síochána District and Station Rationalisation Programme gave rise to the closure in 2012 and 2013 of some 139 Garda stations, including Rush Garda Station, following the completion by An Garda Síochána of a comprehensive review of its district and station network. That review was undertaken with the objective of identifying opportunities to introduce strategic reforms to enhance service delivery, increase efficiency and streamline practices within the organisation. I have been advised by the Garda authorities that the closures have allowed front line Garda to be managed and deployed with greater mobility, greater flexibility and in a more focused fashion, particularly with regard to targeted police operations.

The Programme for Government commits the Government to ensuring a strong and visible police presence throughout the country in order to maintain and strengthen community engagement, provide reassurance to citizens and to deter crime. A cornerstone of this commitment is the Government plan to achieve an overall Garda workforce of 21,000 personnel by 2021 comprising 15,000 Garda members, 2,000 Reserve members and 4,000 civilians. Revisiting the decisions made to close Garda stations is also part of that commitment.

In this context, I have requested the Garda Commissioner, while fully cognisant of her statutory functions, to identify 6 stations for reopening on a pilot basis to determine possible positive impacts that such openings will have on criminal activity, with special emphasis on burglaries, theft and public order. The pilot will feed into the wider review being undertaken by the Garda Síochána Inspectorate, at the request of the Policing Authority, of the dispersal and use of resources available to An Garda Síochána in the delivery of policing services to local communities.

I understand that work is continuing in An Garda Síochána to identify the 6 stations for inclusion in the pilot and that consultations have taken place with relevant stakeholders, including the Policing Authority. In this context, I am sure that the Deputy would agree that a comprehensive and evidenced-based analysis should be carried out, taking account of all the relevant factors, before a final decision is made in respect of the stations to be reopened by the Commissioner.

I expect to receive a report from the Commissioner by the end of May in connection with the exercise.

Garda Station Closures

Ceisteanna (45)

Margaret Murphy O'Mahony

Ceist:

45. Deputy Margaret Murphy O'Mahony asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality if any of the Garda stations closed in west Cork in 2012 and 2013 are included in the six stations being examined for reopening under the pilot programme. [15764/17]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The Deputy will appreciate that the Garda Commissioner is primarily responsible for the effective and efficient use of the resources available to her, including in relation to Garda stations.

As the Deputy will be aware, the Garda Síochána District and Station Rationalisation Programme gave rise to the closure in 2012 and 2013 of some 139 Garda stations following the completion by An Garda Síochána of a comprehensive review of its district and station network. That review was undertaken with the objective of identifying opportunities to introduce strategic reforms to enhance service delivery, increase efficiency and streamline practices within the organisation. I have been advised by the Garda authorities that the closures have allowed front line Garda to be managed and deployed with greater mobility, greater flexibility and in a more focused fashion, particularly with regard to targeted police operations.

The Programme for Government commits the Government to ensuring a strong and visible police presence throughout the country in order to maintain and strengthen community engagement, provide reassurance to citizens and to deter crime. A cornerstone of this commitment is the Government plan to achieve an overall Garda workforce of 21,000 personnel by 2021 comprising 15,000 Garda members, 2,000 Reserve members and 4,000 civilians. Revisiting the decisions made to close Garda stations is also part of that commitment.

In this context, I have requested the Garda Commissioner, while fully cognisant of her statutory functions, to identify 6 stations for reopening on a pilot basis to determine possible positive impacts that such openings will have on criminal activity, with special emphasis on burglaries, theft and public order. The pilot will feed into the wider review being undertaken by the Garda Síochána Inspectorate, at the request of the Policing Authority, of the dispersal and use of resources available to An Garda Síochána in the delivery of policing services to local communities.

I understand that work is continuing in An Garda Síochána to identify the 6 stations for inclusion in the pilot and that consultations have taken place with relevant stakeholders, including the Policing Authority. In this context, I am sure that the Deputy would agree that a comprehensive and evidenced-based analysis should be carried out, taking account of all the relevant factors, before a final decision is made in respect of the stations to be reopened by the Commissioner.

I expect to receive a report from the Commissioner by the end of May in connection with the exercise.