490. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will discuss with senior Garda management the urgent need for sufficient Garda resources to be allocated to an area (details supplied); his views on the concern of the local community in respect of the matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24790/18]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): As the Deputy will appreciate, it is the Garda Commissioner who is responsible for the distribution of resources, including personnel, among the various Garda Divisions and I, as Minister have no direct role in the matter. Garda management keeps this distribution of resources under continual review in the context of crime trends and policing priorities so as to ensure that the optimum use is made of these resources.
I am informed by the Garda Commissioner that, as of the 30 April 2018, the latest date for which figures are available, the strength of the Dublin Metropolitan Region (DMR) South Division was 533 of whom 184 are assigned to Tallaght Garda Station. There are also 17 Garda Reserves and 36 Garda civilian staff attached to the Division. When appropriate, the work of local Gardaí is supported by a number of Garda national units such as the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, the Armed Support Units, the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau and the Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau.
It is important to appreciate that the increased specialisation in An Garda Síochána means the number of Gardaí assigned to various divisions does not include those assigned to various special bureaus or units and, of course, those Gardaí who are also undertaking critical policing work such as the Garda National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, the armed support units, the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau and the Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau. More than 120 extra Gardaí were assigned to the specialist units within special crime operations since 2017 alone.
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. To achieve this the Government has put in place a plan for an overall Garda workforce of 21,000 personnel by 2021 comprising 15,000 Garda members, 2,000 Reserve members and 4,000 civilians. We are making real, tangible progress on achieving this goal.
Since the reopening of the Garda College in September 2014, just under 1,800 recruits have attested as members of An Garda Síochána and have been assigned to mainstream duties nationwide, 136 of whom have been assigned to the DMR South Division with 51 of these assigned to Tallaght Garda Station. Garda numbers, taking account of retirements, increased to 13,551 at the end of 2017 – a net increase of over 600 since the end of 2016.
I am pleased that funding is in place to maintain this high level of investment in the Garda workforce to ensure that the vision of an overall workforce of 21,000 by 2021 remains on track. This year a further 800 new Garda Recruits will enter the Garda College; some 400 of whom have already done so. In total, 800 Garda trainees are scheduled to attest during the year, some 200 of whom attested in March, with a further 200 attesting this Friday. Further, Garda numbers, taking account of projected retirements, are on track to reach 14,000 by the end of this year.
Taking account of projected retirements, reaching a strength of 15,000 by 2021 will require some 1,600 more Garda members to be recruited on a phased basis over the next two years. This is an ambitious programme of accelerated recruitment. To ensure a continuous pipeline of candidates the Public Appointment Service on behalf of the Commissioner recently launched a new recruitment drive with a closing date of 7 June. Successful candidates from this new competition are expected to enter the Garda College in the second quarter of 2019.
In addition to the investment in more Gardaí, a further 500 civilians will also be recruited to fill critical skills gaps across the organisation and to facilitate the redeployment of Gardaí from administrative and technical duties to front-line operational duties. There are plans to strengthen the Garda Reserve with new Reserves expected to commence training in 2018.
This focus on investment in personnel is critical. We are now rebuilding the organisation and providing the Commissioner with the resources needed to deploy increasing numbers of Gardaí. Undoubtedly, the ongoing recruitment process will support all Garda activities and enhance visibility within our communities and will enable the Commissioner to provide additional resources across every Garda Division, including the DMR South Division as new Garda recruits continue to come on stream.