As the Deputy will appreciate, the Garda Commissioner is responsible under provisions of the Garda Síochána Act 2005 for the management and administration of the Garda organisation. This responsibility includes decisions on distribution of resources and personnel. As Minister, I have no direct role in these matters.
It is however important to note that community policing is at the heart of An Garda Síochána and that all Gardaí have a role to play in community policing in the course of carrying out their duties. To date, the official categorisation as a Community Garda has simply referred to those who are exclusively assigned to building relationships with local communities and civil society including giving talks to schools, community groups and others.
I am advised by the Garda authorities that on 12 March 2020, a direction from the Deputy Commissioner, Policing and Security, introduced a new temporary roster (COVID-19 contingency roster) which took effect as of 7am on 16 March 2020. This roster changed the number of working units from 5 to 4 units. The change to the roster was implemented as one of the Garda measures to assist in policing the public health guidelines to curb the spread of COVID-19 by maximising operational availability and delivery.
In addition to the four regular units, two supplementary units were established as part of this temporary roster. Members attached to these supplementary units were sourced from members attached to Divisional Specialist Units, Community Policing, administrative units, non-core duties etc. The purpose of these supplementary units is to provide additional resources and support during the busier daytime hours.
The Garda Commissioner has extended the current roster arrangements to 31 December 2020 pending ongoing negotiations with the Garda Associations and the work of the Rosters Working Group within An Garda Síochána.
I am satisfied that the Commissioner will ensure that any roster system is in line with the operational needs of An Garda Síochána, including the maintenance of visible policing and supporting communities around the country. It is also important that any such roster should support the health and welfare of members of An Garda Síochána as well provide value for public money.