I welcome Deputy Durkan's support for the new Garda plan which, I reiterate, is not a ministerial, Government or political plan but is rather a Garda plan designed and drawn up by the Garda Commissioner and his team. I support it, as does the Government, and I ask for support for the plan from every Member of the House in circumstances in which the functional model now proposed has long been recommended by independent policing specialists, including the Garda Síochána Inspectorate and in the report of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland. The roll-out of this model meets a key commitment in A Policing Service for the Future, which is the four-year implementation plan giving effect to the recommendations of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland.
While new to Ireland, the model is the norm in other countries. It is designed to reduce bureaucracy and will shift real decision-making power from Garda headquarters to chief superintendents.
It will ensure that decisions are made closer to the communities that they serve and will result in significantly more sergeants and inspectors on the ground where leadership, supervision and mentoring are crucial.
The Deputy asked about the impact of the model in making adequate provision for community policing, juvenile liaison and rapid response. The new model is specifically designed to provide a more responsive, localised policing service. It reorganises resources around the delivery of front-line policing, placing an increased emphasis on engaging with communities and supporting victims of crime. There will be much greater community engagement in the new model, including a dedicated superintendent leading the community engagement team in the new divisions. By contrast, in the old district model, superintendents would have been balancing this important work with competing priorities such as the investigation of major crime. In terms of that engagement and speed of Garda response, the bottom line is that there will be more gardaí on the front line, more sergeants and more inspectors will be on the ground and more streamlined administrative structures will allow Garda senior management to focus more directly on policing tasks. Overall, this new model will mean a more responsive, visible policing presence on the ground in communities.