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Question

94. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the extent to which ongoing training is available to An Garda Síochána, with particular reference to the need to ensure that the force is fully equipped in every way to take on modern gangland crime; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21318/19]

Answer

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): As the Deputy will appreciate, it is the Garda Commissioner who is responsible for managing An Garda Síochána, including the training of its members and civilian staff and I, as Minister, have no direct role in the matter. However I can assure the Deputy that investing in the capacity of An Garda Síochána to tackle criminals and enforce the law effectively is a key objective of this Government's response to tackling crime. An Garda Síochána continues to develop and implement operations and strategies to target, dismantle and disrupt organised criminal networks, utilising advanced analytical and intelligence methodologies.
I am informed by the Commissioner that the additional resources coming on stream have enabled him to assign extra resources to specialist units involved in tackling organised crime, including the Emergency Response Unit (ERU), Armed Support Unit (ASU), Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau, the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, and the Criminal Assets Bureau.
The ERU is a highly-trained and well-equipped special intervention capability that is supported by a number of regional Armed Support Units and range of other resources across the Garda organisation. ASUs have been established in each of the six Garda Regions to provide an armed response capacity and capability on a Regional basis which support and supplement the national ERU. Members of the ASUs are also highly trained and equipped with a variety of non-lethal and lethal weapons and perform high visibility armed checkpoints and patrols throughout their respective Regions.
The Deputy will be aware that there are also a number of successful Garda operations in place to disrupt the activities of criminal gangs.
Operation Thor was officially launched in November 2015 and focuses on burglary and burglary related crime. The scale of Garda activity under Operation Thor (as of 7 May 2019) has resulted in over 200,900 targeted checkpoints and more than 356,300 crime prevention patrols carried out nationwide. This concentrated policing activity has produced in the region of 10,000 arrests and 11,550 charges covering a range of offences which, in addition to burglary, have included handling stolen property, possession of firearms and drugs offences. An Garda Síochána will continue to bring pressure on the gangs and individuals responsible for these type of offences.
The Deputy will also be familiar with Operation Hybrid which has been deployed as a result of an escalation in violence between organised crime gangs in the Dublin Metropolitan Region. The strategic objective of Operation Hybrid is to have a three-pronged approach - preventative, investigative and targeted. As of 5 May, there have been in the region of 76,700 high visibility checkpoints carried out under Operation Hybrid. An up to date breakdown of arrests and charges is currently being prepared by An Garda Síochána.
The resources provided by Government to An Garda Síochána have reached unprecedented levels, with an allocation for 2019 of €1.76 billion. This represents an increase of over 6% over the initial allocation for 2018.
With respect to tackling cross border crime, there is strong ongoing co-operation between the Gardaí and the PSNI in respect of the full range of policing activities. A joint Cross-Border Policing Strategy operates between the two services. The Strategy covers the range of policing activities and contains a series of initiatives in which both police services are actively engaged.
The Joint Agency Task Force established under the Fresh Start Agreement engages the two police services in a lead role in structured strategic and operational co-operation in combatting cross-border organised crime. The Joint Agency Task Force is a positive example of the extensive North-South co-operation that is undertaken between the police and other law enforcement agencies aimed at tackling crime and enhancing the safety of all communities on this island.
An Garda Síochána has a structured training delivery infrastructure nationally with facilities throughout the country. The organisation is expanding its training infrastructure and has engaged in procurement processes which allow the use of external training facilities. The organisation is moving towards a blended learning approach, and is presently using e-learning and collaborating with the National Digital Learning Centre at DCU to develop further in this area.
I can assure the Deputy that the Government remains committed to ensuring An Garda Síochána have all the necessary resources to tackle all forms of criminality that affects our communities.