287. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if his attention has been drawn to the significant drop in Garda numbers (details supplied); if he will raise the matter with An Garda Síochána in view of the ongoing gangland feud in the area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21480/18]
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.
As the Deputy will be aware the Ballymun Garda Station forms part of the Dublin Metropolitan Region (DMR) North Division. I am informed by the Commissioner that on 31 March 2018, the latest date for which figures are readily available, the strength of the DMR North Division was 665, of whom 109 were assigned to Ballymun Garda Station including 12 sergeants. There are also 43 Garda Reserves and 39 civilians 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. More than 120 extra Garda were assigned to the specialist units within Special Crime Operations since 2017. In addition, a dedicated Armed Support Unit for the DMR was established at the end of 2016 in order to enhance armed support capability in Dublin.
I am also advised that a number of measures have been put in place to address the difficulties experienced in Ballymun. These measures include additional high-visibility patrols, support from the regional public order unit and operations by the local drug unit and will continue into the future.
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. 140 members of this cohort have been assigned to the DMR North 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. Further, Garda numbers, taking account of projected retirements, are on track to reach 14,000 by the end of this year.
In addition, 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. The moratorium on recruitment introduced in 2010 resulted in a significant reduction in the strength of An Garda Síochána. We are now rebuilding the organisation and providing the Commissioner with the resources needed to deploy increasing numbers of Gardaí across every Division, including the DMR North Division.
Appointments to the ranks of sergeant are a matter for the Commissioner under section 14 of the Garda Síochána Act 2005.
I am advised by the Commissioner that the overall strength of the sergeant rank was 1,861 as of 31 March 2018, the latest date for which figures are available. I am further advised by the Commissioner that there is currently a competition in train for promotion to the rank of sergeant with the aim of bringing the strength to 2,000, as agreed under the Employment Control Framework. I am assured by the Commissioner that following completion of these competitions the needs of all Garda Divisions including the DMR North Division will be fully considered when determining the allocation of Sergeants.