Deputy John Brassil asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if Caherciveen Garda station will be reopened; his plans to appoint the requisite gardaí to facilitate same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25095/18]
532. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if a series of matters (details supplied) regarding public order issues in an area in County Kerry will be examined; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25448/18]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): I propose to take Questions Nos. 514 and 532 together.
As the Deputy will appreciate, it is the Garda Commissioner who is responsible for the distribution of resources, including personnel and Garda station opening hours, 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 advised that Caherciveen Garda station is open to the public from 9am to 5pm Monday to Sunday. It is important to remember that while the Garda station in question has reduced opening hours to the public, it is a functioning Garda station on a 24 hour basis.
I am informed by the Commissioner that in regard to the deployment of Garda personnel, a distribution model is used which takes into account all relevant factors including population, crime trends and the policing needs of each individual Garda Division. It is the responsibility of the Divisional Officer to allocate personnel within his/her Division which ensures local Garda management has the flexibility to deploy Garda resources to meet operational needs and address critical issues as they arise taking account of, amongst other factors, the incidence of crime and crime trends in each District in the Division.
As the Deputy will be aware Caherciveen forms part of the Killarney Garda District. I am further informed that on 30 April 2018, the latest date for which information is readily available the strength of the District was 107, including one Superintendent District officer based in District Headquarters, in Killarney Garda Station, and 18 Gardaí assigned to Caherciveen Garda Station. 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.
I can assure the Deputy that 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 including 29 to the Kerry Division. 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. Furthermore, 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 District, including the Killarney District as new Garda recruits continue to come on stream.