The Garda Commissioner has responsibility for managing An Garda Síochána and for the allocation of Garda resources, in light of identified operational demands. This includes responsibility for the manner in which Gardaí are deployed. As Minister I have no direct role in that matters. I understand however that Garda management keeps the distribution of resources under continual review in the context of crime trends and policing priorities, to ensure their optimum use.
As the Deputy will be aware, a record €1.76 billion was allocated to the Garda Vote for 2019, as well as capital investment amounting to €92 million this year. I am pleased to have secured an overall increase of €122 million to increase An Garda Síochána's budget for 2020 to an unprecedented €1.882 billion for next year.
This investment is supporting the sustained growth of the organisation. We currently have approximately 14,200 Gardaí nationwide, supported by over 2,900 Garda staff.
And as part of the Government’s plan to achieve an overall Garda workforce of 21,000 personnel by 2021, there is ongoing and increased recruitment both of new Gardaí as well as Garda staff, allowing for redeployment of Gardaí to operational duties at the front-line.
Since the reopening of the Garda Training College in 2014, approximately 2,800 new Garda members have attested and been assigned to frontline policing duties in communities throughout the country. Another 200 probationer Gardaí are due to attest next week.
I am aware of the media reports referred to by the Deputy, to the effect that on a particular date in March, only 2 Gardaí were available to patrol. I can understand the concern that these reports may have caused to the Deputy, and to the people of the area. I am pleased to confirm to the Deputy that I have raised this matter with the Garda authorities and I am informed that the media reports are incorrect. I have been assured that on the night in question, significantly more than 2 Gardaí were on duty and available to patrol the city.
In relation to Garda resources in Cork City Division more generally, I am informed by the Garda Commissioner that as of the end of October 2019, there are 700 Gardaí are assigned to the Cork City Division, supported by 95 Garda staff. Additionally, they are currently supported by 33 Garda Reserve.
The additional 49 Gardaí assigned to the Cork City Division since the end of 2015, represents an increase of 7.5%. The increase in Garda staff numbers from 59 to 95 (equivalent to an increase of 61%) over the same period means that as well as new Gardaí assigned to the Division, additional Gardaí can be redeployed from administrative to operational policing duties, where their training and policing expertise can be used to best effect.
Taken together, it can be expected that the increase in both Garda members and staff numbers represents a real increase in operational policing hours within the Cork City Division. Nationally, over 500 Garda Members have been redeployed to frontline visible policing.
In addition, the next intake of probationer Gardaí will be attested on 29th November, 2019 and transfer to their training stations on 2nd December, 2019. I have been informed that it is the intention of the Commissioner to allocate eight probationer Gardaí to training stations within the Cork City Division on a permanent basis.
The Deputy may be interested to note that for December 2019, the Commissioner has directed the allocation of an additional 24 probationers from this class to be allocated to the Cork City Division on a temporary basis to work on Operation Open City, which involves high visibility road policing duties over the busy Christmas period. These 24 probationers will then be re-allocated after the period concerned to their permanent training stations in Divisions outside the Cork City Division from 2nd January, 2020.
These intended allocation of resources are contingent on the operational demands of An Garda Síochána and as such may be subject to change.