The Deputy will be aware that the Garda Commissioner is by law responsible for the management of An Garda Síochána, including personnel matters and deployment of resources. As Minister, I have no responsibility for these matters. I am assured, 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 resources provided to An Garda Síochána have reached unprecedented levels, with an allocation for 2020 of €1.88 billion. This level of funding is enabling sustained, ongoing recruitment of Garda members and staff and as a result, An Garda Síochána is a growing organisation. There are now almost 14,700 Gardaí nationwide, supported by over 3,000 Garda staff and these numbers are continuing to grow. Taken together, this increase in the number of Garda members and staff is delivering a significant growth in operational policing hours nationwide.
As the Deputy will appreciate and in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic and associated public health restrictions, public access to the Garda College has been prohibited since 12 March 2020. At that time, over 300 Garda trainees attested earlier than scheduled and sworn members of Garda College staff were deployed to operational duties in order to enhance Garda capacity to respond to that pandemic.
In terms of the current position, I am informed by the Garda Commissioner that arrangements have been made to permit further intakes of Garda recruits, despite the current situation. With regard to recruitment plans for 2020, An Garda Síochána have confirmed that they still intend to run a sworn member recruitment plan this year.
I am informed that approximately 150 new recruits commenced training under a revised delivery method, in light of the current circumstances. The first batch of approximately 75 commenced training on 25 May, and second batch of 75 recruits on 22 June.
I understand that training will consist of:
- 3 weeks on-line distance learning;
- 1 week residential at the Garda College;
- Weeks 5-16 assisting operational policing in allocated training stations in home divisions;
- Weeks 17-32 residential at the Garda College and attestation (all other things being equal).
I am further informed that the Garda College has put in place strict contingencies for the period during which recruits will attend the college and strict social distancing will be enforced for the duration.