I propose to take Questions Nos. 236 and 237 together.
It is important to be clear that under the Garda Síochána Act 2005 as amended, the Garda Commissioner has responsibility for management of An Garda Síochána and for the allocation and efficient use of Garda resources. This includes responsibility for personnel matters and the distribution of personnel across the various Garda Divisions. As Minister I have no direct role in these 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.
The information requested by the Deputy in respect of the number probationer Gardaí allocated to the Mayo Division in each of the years 2016 to 2018 and to date in 2019 is available on my Department’s website at the following link: http://justice.ie/en/JELR/Pages/Probationer_Garda%C3%AD
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. We now have approximately 14,300 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.
Since the reopening of the Garda College in 2014, approximately 3,000 probationers have attested and been assigned to frontline policing duties nationwide, including the 197 new probationers that attested on 29 November. Of these probationers, 18 have been assigned to the Mayo Division.
I have reviewed the details of the Mayo Division workforce and I would point out that the number of Garda members and staff in the Mayo Division has increased over recent years. I am informed by the Garda authorities that as of 31 October 2019 there were 338 Gardaí assigned to the Mayo Division. This represents a significant increase of 35 Gardaí in the Division since the end of 2015. These Gardaí are supported by 50 Garda staff, which again represents a significant increase of 17 Garda staff since the end of 2015. This increase in Garda staff supports the redeployment of Gardaí from administrative to operational policing duties, where their training and expertise can be used to best effect. Taking account of retirements and departures, there are now 35 additional Gardaí across the Mayo Division since the end of 2015, representing an overall 12% increase in Garda members across the Mayo Division since the end of 2015.
Taken together, the increase in Garda and civilian staff numbers means a significant increase in operational policing hours in Mayo in recent years.
With regard to retirements, I am advised by the Commissioner that projected departures are kept under continuous review and that the level of recruitment is adjusted as necessary in order to maintain the desired strength.
As the Deputy may be aware, the retirement of members of An Garda Síochána is governed by law, which sets the mandatory retirement age for all members at 60 years of age. Members of An Garda Síochána who joined prior to 1 April 2004 may retire on full pension at 50 years of age once they have served at least 30 years and those who joined on or after 1 April 2004 may retire on full pension at 55 years of age with 30 years service. Gardaí have the option of continuing to serve until they reach 60, subject to the Garda Commissioner being satisfied that they are fully competent and available to undertake their duties.
I am informed that there have been a total of 15 retirements in the Mayo Division during each of the years 2016 to 2018 and to date in 2019. I am informed by the Garda authorities that the number of members who retired on a Voluntary, Compulsory or a Cost Neutral Early Retirement basis in the Mayo Division in the years requested was 5 in 2016, 4 in 2017, 5 in 2018 and 1 as of 4 December 2019.