102. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the review he is undertaking of road safety legislation, enforcement and implementation since taking over the portfolio of justice; his priorities for road safety invigilation and enforcement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32678/17]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): As the Deputy will be aware, any review of road safety legislation is a matter for my colleague the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Mr. Shane Ross, T.D.. Road safety legislation currently in train in Minister Ross' Department includes the Road Traffic (Drink Driving - Fixed Penalty Notice) Bill 2017, the commencement of Parts 2 and 7 of the Road Traffic Act 2017, the National Vehicle and Driver File (Prüm Decisions) Bill 2017 and the Road Safety Authority (Amendment) Bill 2017.
Road safety is a shared responsibility, one which I, Minister Ross and the Government, take very seriously. Ireland’s current Road Safety Strategy (2013 – 2020) aims to place Ireland consistently on the list of safest countries in the EU and beyond. To achieve this, we are continuing to work together in partnership. I will attend the fourth Ministerial Committee on Road Safety of 2017 with Minister Ross on 24 July, along with the Road Safety Authority, An Garda Síochána, the Attorney General and other agencies. This Committee oversees the implementation of the Road Safety Strategy and provides a forum for high-level discussion of road safety issues.
The Committee generally meets twice a the year; however, in light of the 2016 increase in road fatalities, the Committee has already met on three occasions in 2017. The purpose of these meetings is to bring together all stakeholders to see what actions can be taken to reduce the number of road fatalities and collisions, which reached a historic low in both 2012 and 2015 but which increased again last year. In this regard, it should be pointed out that, so far this year, there has been a small reduction in the overall number of road deaths compared to the same period in 2016, although there is no room for complacency here. Any death on our roads is a death too many.
In addition, my Department jointly chairs the multi-agency Criminal Justice (FCPS) Working Group with the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport. The Working Group is charged with overseeing and facilitating the recommendations of the Garda Síochána Inspectorate's report on ‘The Fixed Charge Processing System – A 21 st Century Strategy’ (February 2014). Some 22 of the 37 recommendations have been fully implemented to date, with 5 additional recommendations on track for delivery in 2017. Work on the remaining recommendations is ongoing and the majority of these recommendations are medium-long-term in nature.
This multi-agency approach continues into enforcement. An Garda Síochána’s Roads Policing Operations Plan 2017 incorporates a programme of high visibility road safety and enforcement operations, carried out in partnership with other state agencies. Garda operations specifically target road use behaviour known to contribute significantly to collisions, including driving while intoxicated, speeding and the use of mobile phones. By working together with the Road Safety Authority and other agencies, An Garda Síochána will continue to confront dangerous road-user behaviour thorough public presence, legislative enforcement, education and partnership.
In January 2017, the Commissioner indicated that there will be an additional 10% increase in the traffic corps during the course of 2017, and I am informed that An Garda Síochána that a proposal in respect of the reconfiguration of the Traffic Corps is currently being developed. An Garda Síochána will liaise with the Policing Authority in respect of the reconfiguration. It is anticipated that the reconfiguration will be completed before the end of 2017. An Garda Síochána also indicated that it was intended to have a stronger focus on road traffic enforcement in the training provided to new recruits at Templemore.
The Deputy will appreciate that I have no direct role in the enforcement of road traffic legislation, which is an operational matter for the Garda Commissioner. I am informed that road traffic legislation is enforced as part of the day-to-day duties of members of An Garda Síochána, as well as through a programme of high visibility road safety and enforcement operations, carried out in partnership with other state agencies. Garda operations specifically target road use behaviour known to contribute significantly to collisions, including use of a mobile phone. Both strategic, targeted operations and general methods of enforcement have a valuable role to play in An Garda Síochána's road traffic enforcement programme, which targets locations with a view to preventing the commission of offences, detecting errant motorists, changing their behaviour and ultimately reducing death and injuries on our roads.
An Garda Síochána’s Modernisation and Renewal Programme (2016-2021) sets out key strategic objectives for Road Policing which will inform and guide An Garda Síochána's Road Policing plans over the next 5 years. Under the Programme, the Commissioner will undertake a number of road safety traffic enforcement initiatives, including expanding the use of technology and increasing checkpoints.
The Programme is being supported by significant Government investment of some €330 million, including €205 million under the Capital Plan, in Garda ICT infrastructure over the period 2016 to 2021. This major investment will allow An Garda Síochána to deploy the latest cutting edge technologies in the fight against crime.
Underpinning all of these measures is the Government's ongoing commitment to ensuring a strong and visible police presence throughout the country in order to maintain and strengthen community engagement, provide reassurance to citizens and deter crime. The Government plans to achieve an overall Garda workforce of 21,000 personnel by 2021 comprising 15,000 Garda members, 2,000 Reserve members and 4,000 civilians. This year, funding has been provided for the recruitment of 800 Garda recruits and up to 500 civilians to support the wide ranging reform plan which is in train within An Garda Síochána. Approximately 300 appointments will also be made to the Garda Reserve.