32. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will address recent events in Drogheda, County Louth, and the need for additional Garda resources; and if he will consider a model similar to that of the task force in the north inner city in response to ongoing drug-related incidents in the town. [20944/19]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): As the Deputy will be aware, I have visited Drogheda on a number of occasions in recent months to meet with Gardaí involved in tackling this feud, including a visit two weeks ago with the Garda Commissioner. I have also been briefed by the Commissioner about the dedicated policing operation - Operation Stratus - that is in place in Drogheda and specifically targets this ongoing, highly volatile feud.
Operation Stratus consists of high visibility patrols and checkpoints, days of action and covert policing initiatives, targeting specific parties to the feud. The operations are supplemented by personnel from the regional armed support unit, the drugs unit and the divisional roads policing unit and have resulted in the seizure of considerable amounts of cash, firearms and controlled drugs.
I am informed that a number of arrests took place last weekend as part of Operation Stratus. On Friday Gardaí investigating on-going criminality in the Drogheda area attended the scene of a stolen burnt out car. The follow up investigation led to three males being arrested and charged in relation to this incident. On Sunday Gardaí searched a house in the Hill View area of Drogheda town. During the course of the search, Gardaí recovered quantities of cocaine and cannabis herb. Other paraphernalia including weighing equipment and documentation was also seized. I am informed that during the follow up operation a person was arrested and is currently detained for questioning under section 4 of the Criminal Justice Act, 1984.
As the Deputy is aware, the distribution of Garda resources is solely a matter for the Garda Commissioner and his management team and I have no role in such matters. However, I welcome the Commissioner's recent announcement that an additional 25 Garda members will be allocated to Drogheda adding to the existing Garda strength of around 120 members.
I also want to reassure the local community in Drogheda that there are specialised regional Armed Support Units based in the Northern Region at Dundalk and Ballyshannon Garda Stations. Members of these Units are highly trained and equipped with a variety of non-lethal and lethal weapons and perform high visibility armed checkpoints and patrols throughout the region and support and supplement the national Emergency Response Unit which has also been deployed to Drogheda in recent times. The Commissioner recently made an operational decision to establish a third Regional ASU in the Northern Region at Cavan Garda station , and I understand that arrangements have commenced to establish this new unit in order to further support and strengthen Garda capacities in the region.
I am determined that the situation in Drogheda cannot be allowed to continue. There has been a sustained and concerted effort on the part of An Garda Síochána to bring those engaged in the feud to justice. I know An Garda Síochána are dedicated to tackling gang-related violence in Drogheda and ensuring the safety of all citizens in the community and the wider area.