I can assure the Deputy that the Government is fully committed to ensuring that An Garda Síochána has the necessary resources to continue to disrupt the operation of criminal groups who carry out these killings and who endanger the safety of our communities and he will have noted An Garda Síochána have made significant progress in tackling the insidious threat of organised crime, particularly in Dublin’s North Inner-City.
Operation Hybrid has been established to coordinate the response to violent crime in Dublin and address public safety concerns about community safety, particularly in the North Inner City, and it benefits from significant support by Armed Support Units. As of 13 January 2019, this response has included:
- 86 arrests.
- 11 persons charged in relation to organised crime gang murder investigations, 3 persons convicted of murder with life sentences imposed.
- 37 firearms seized (in relation to murder offences).
- In the region of 290 searches.
- 16,969 lines of enquiry conducted with more than 73,220 high visibility checkpoints implemented with significant support from Armed Support Units.
- A significant amount of CCTV footage, mobile phone traffic, and forensic evidence has also been examined.
We have also seen reports of very significant drugs seizures by An Garda Síochána in Waterford and Dublin recently which led to a number of arrests being made. Yesterday, as part of an intelligence-led operation targeting serious organised crime activity in the Louth Division, Gardaí from the Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau, assisted by Officers from the Criminal Assets Bureau and Louth Division, seized a quantity of cannabis herb with a street value thought to be in the region of €940,000 (pending analysis). An arrest was made on foot of the operation and investigations remain ongoing.
In addition, a number of arrests were made in the UK recently on foot of investigations into the supply of drugs and firearms in Ireland and the UK which resulted in a number of court appearances, while others arrested were released under investigation.
The Deputy will appreciate that the allocation of all Garda resources, including personnel, is a matter for the Garda Commissioner and his management team and I have no role in this matter. However, I have been advised that An Garda Síochána continues to monitor all new and emerging crime trends so that Garda resources can be allocated accordingly.
As part of Budget 2019, the Government has increased the budget for An Garda Síochána to €1.76 billion for this year, which will facilitate the continued recruitment of new Garda members as well as Garda staff. The Garda Commissioner has now indicated that it is his intention to recruit a total of 600 trainee Gardaí along with a net 600 Garda staff. The recruitment of these additional Garda staff will allow the Commissioner to redeploy a further 500 fully trained Gardaí from administrative duties this year to the frontline policing duties for which they were trained.
I have been assured by the Garda Commissioner that the recruitment of Garda members and Garda staff planned for 2019 will ensure that, taking account of projected retirements, the Government's commitment to increasing the strength of An Garda Síochána to 15,000 Garda members and 4,000 Garda staff by 2021 will be achieved. The number of Garda members in An Garda Siochana increased to just over 14,000 at the end of 2018, a net increase of over 1,000 since the end of 2016. The Commissioner's plans for the redeployment of Gardaí to frontline policing in 2019 will result in a net additional 1,100 Gardaí deployed to operational policing by the end of 2019.
This approach to management of resources by the Commissioner, including recruitment and redeployment, is very much in line with the Report of the Commission for the Future of Policing in Ireland which recommended the return of Gardaí to the front line to deliver visible policing. The Deputy will be aware that on 18 December 2018 I published a four year high level plan, ‘A Policing Service for the Future’, which sets out the approach to implementation of the Commission's recommendations. Civilianisation, workforce planning and redeployment are some of the key projects which will continue to be progressed over the lifetime of this reform programme.