I would like to assure the Deputy that the implementation of the report of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland (CoFPI) is a key priority for me as Minister for Justice. This opinion is shared by my colleagues across Government, and our commitment to implementation is reflected in the new Programme for Government - Our Shared Future.
The Deputy will be aware that in September 2018, the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland published its final report, outlining a clear vision and roadmap for strengthening An Garda Síochána and the broader national framework for policing, security and community safety.
There is already an extensive implementation framework in place with respect to CoFPI. In December 2018, Government published A Policing Service for our Future – the 4-year Plan (2019-2022) to implement the Report of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland. The Plan was developed in cooperation with stakeholders from across the public service, in particular, An Garda Síochána.
The Policing Reform Implementation Programme Office (PRIPO) – which is based in the Department of the Taoiseach – monitors progress on the actions contained in APSFF, supporting the work of the Implementation Group on Policing Reform (IGPR), and keeping the High Level Steering Board on Policing Reform and Government apprised of the progress being made.
In 2020, the third phase of the implementation of APSFF – the Scaling Phase – is scheduled to commence. This is the critical phase of the programme of reform, during which the programme gains momentum. The delivery of the majority of the actions will be started or executed during the Scaling Phase. The Scaling Phase builds on the progress achieved under the Building Blocks and Launching phases which set and implemented the foundations for the success of the Plan.
Progress in 2020 has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, I have been encouraged to see the responsiveness and flexibility shown by An Garda Síochána in dealing with the demands of this unprecedented situation. IGPR is continuing to work with key stakeholders to identify priority actions for implementation and is actively engaged in ensuring continued momentum on the key reforms in so far as possible under the current circumstances.
That being said, I am pleased to inform the Deputy that much has already been achieved under APSFF. For example, the roll-out of a new Operating Model for An Garda Síochána has commenced. This model is designed to streamline Garda administration and to provide a more visible, responsive and localised policing service to communities nationwide.
In 2019, approximately 600 new Garda recruits attested and were assigned to frontline policing duties nationwide. In addition, An Garda Síochána recruited almost 750 Garda Staff. This has allowed approximately 600 Gardaí to be reassigned from administrative to frontline operational policing duties where their training and expertise can be used to best effect.
The Industrial Relations (Amendment) Act 2019 has been enacted which gives Gardaí access to the Workplace Relations Commission for the first time and provides for a modern industrial relations framework within An Garda Síochána.
An Garda Síochána has established and strengthened resourcing of a Human Rights Unit and re-established the Strategic Human Rights Advisory Committee. Also, the National Security Analysis Centre (NSAC) has been established, and the Director of NSAC has been appointed;
Furthermore, there is ongoing progress on legislative reform. For example, the Government has given approval for legislation to be drafted to underpin the use of recording devices (including body worn cameras) and for the codification of legislation defining police powers of arrest, search and detention.
Work is also well advanced on the development of the General Scheme of the Policing and Community Safety Bill to give legislative effect to the recommendations of the CoFPI Report. It will redefine policing to include prevention of harm to those who are vulnerable and place an obligation on relevant state agencies to cooperate with An Garda Síochána in relation to the broader issue of community safety. It will provide for a new coherent governance and oversight framework to empower the Garda Commissioner to act as CEO supported and held to account by a non-executive Board, while ensuring both strong internal governance and robust, transparent external oversight as well as effective accountability which will ultimately lead to a better run organisation and more effective policing. Following consultations with the Garda Commissioner and the oversight bodies which are underway at present on the detail of the proposals, I hope to bring the matter before Cabinet in the near future.
These measures and achievements represent only some of the wide range of actions being progressed under APSFF. Further information on progress and updates on the implementation of A Policing Service for our Future can be found at https://www.gov.ie/en/campaigns/065724-policing-reform/