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An Garda Síochána

Dáil Éireann Debate, Thursday - 25 November 2021

Thursday, 25 November 2021

Ceisteanna (120)

Paul McAuliffe


120. Deputy Paul McAuliffe asked the Minister for Justice the number of community gardaí in the Ballymun Garda district as of 1 November 2021 or the latest date available; the number in the 12 months previously; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [57943/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí ó Béal (6 píosaí cainte) (Ceist ar Justice)

Earlier this year, Dublin City Council published a report, titled Ballymun - A Brighter Future, which outlined the impact of the drugs industry on that community. Core to that report were actions which we believe many agencies, including An Garda Síochána, need to take. The resources An Garda Síochána has are crucial to the successful implementation of that report. Will the Minister of State outline the number of community gardaí available to the community of Ballymun at this time?

I thank Deputy McAuliffe for raising the important issue of the number of gardaí in the Ballymun Garda district. The Deputy has been very strong on this matter, both in this Chamber and behind the scenes.

As the Deputy will be aware, the Garda Commissioner is responsible, under section 33 of the Garda Síochána Act 2005, as amended, for the deployment of An Garda Síochána throughout the State. However, I am assured that Garda management keeps this distribution of resources under continual review in the context of policing priorities and crime trends to ensure their optimum use. I further understand that it is a matter for the divisional chief superintendent to determine the optimum distribution of duties among the personnel available to him or her, having regard to the profile of each area within the division and its specific needs.

To date, the official categorisation of community garda has simply referred to those who are exclusively assigned to building relationships with local communities and civil society, including through giving talks to schools, community groups and others. However, it is 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. This is fundamental to the new Garda operating model recommended by the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland and currently being rolled out under A Policing Service for Our Future, the Government's implementation plan for the commission's recommendations.

The recommendations of the report, Ballymun - A Brighter Future, are reflected in the objectives of the youth justice strategy which the Minister, Deputy McEntee, and I published in April 2021. These include the principle of diverting young people from antisocial and criminal behaviour, developing supports centred on the needs of children and young persons that take account of issues such as trauma, supporting young people in education and considering alternative approaches, where appropriate, and employing innovative approaches to help break cycles of offending, including multisystemic therapy and a specialised approach to combat coercive control of young people by criminal groups. In the most recent budget, we got an additional €6.7 million in the budget for our youth justice strategy, an increase of almost 40%.

I welcome the Minister of State's commitment to this issue along with that of his ministerial colleague. Deployment is a matter for the Garda Commissioner but, on his appointment, he said that crime is not like rain in that it does not fall evenly everywhere. It was therefore very surprising when we discovered, through the report, Ballymun - A Brighter Future, that the Dublin northern division has the eighth lowest number of gardaí among the 28 districts. If we remove the 50 gardaí who are based in Dublin Airport and are not available to the community, the division has the fourth lowest number of gardaí in the country. I appreciate it is a matter for the Garda Commissioner but it is a crucial matter in dealing with this report. Issues relating to open drug dealing undermine the confidence of the community in the entire system of the State. If people can see drugs being dealt openly on corners in their area and do not see An Garda Síochána acting on it, they will ask why the State is not responding. The matter is therefore crucial to the community's confidence in An Garda Síochána.

I again thank Deputy McAuliffe for raising the issue of the number of gardaí. As stated, the distribution and designation of members of An Garda Síochána is a matter for the Garda Commissioner and the local chief superintendent. However, everybody deserves to feel safe and be safe in their communities. We are absolutely committed to making our communities stronger, safer and more just. That is why we have significantly increased the resources available to An Garda Síochána to help tackle issues of crime in every community in the country. I am advised by Garda authorities that on 31 October 2021, the latest date for which figures are available, there was a total of seven community gardaí attached to the Garda station in Ballymun.

This is an increase of one on the same date in 2020. The Deputy may wish to further note that the total number of gardaí attached to the Ballymun district, as at 31 October 2021, is 257, which represents a 13% increase on the numbers allocated to the district in 2015.

I agree with the Deputy, though, that the level of open drug dealing visible in our communities must be tackled.

I appreciate the update from the Minister of State. It will help to continue to inform the implementation of the report. It does not, however, significantly increase the resources available to the community. I welcome, however, the Government's commitment to implementing this report on Ballymun. It is crucial that communities see reports like this being implemented rather than just being published.

I also record the commitment that the Taoiseach gave, when he met me, to engage with agencies in Ballymun regarding this report, to visit the constituency, as he did when he was a Minister and in opposition, and to meet the joint policing committee, including the elected and community representatives. We can solve the problems in Ballymun, Finglas and in many other communities, but we must do that with the resources of An Garda Síochána and the different State agencies. That includes Tusla, because if we make an impact during the first years of someone's life, then we can change an entire community.

The Deputy touched on an important point. Tackling the situation with drugs is not simply a matter for the Garda. A whole-of-community approach is required, including from all the State agencies. This broader, health-led response is key to the national drugs strategy, Reducing Harm and Supporting Recovery, which is being led by my colleague, the Minister of State, Deputy Feighan. Gardaí in the area are working closely with the local authority, the HSE, NGOs, community groups, and other State agencies and through the implementation of the plan for a safer Ballymun and the Ballymun - A Brighter Future report.

In addition, the funding provided in the budget will mean that we will see an estimated 800 extra members of the Garda. By the end of 2022, therefore, there will be an estimated 14,600 fully-attested members of An Garda Síochána, with another 600 in training. The provision of additional civilian staff will equally help to release gardaí from administrative duties to front-line work. Therefore, we are going to see a significant increase in the numbers of gardaí, and it will be up to the Commissioner to ensure that those members of the Garda are distributed to those areas needing them the most.