60. Deputy John Curran asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality the reason for the continuing fall in Garda Reserve numbers in the Dublin western metropolitan region; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40456/16]
Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): As the Deputy will appreciate, the Garda Commissioner 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.
I am informed by the Garda 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.
This Government is committed to ensuring visible, effective and responsive policing throughout the country in order to strengthen community engagement, provide reassurance to citizens and prevent crime. To make this a reality for all, the Government has in place a plan 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. In 2017, funding has been provided for the recruitment of 800 Garda recruits and up to 500 civilians to support the wide ranging reform plan in train in An Garda Síochána. Appointments will also be made to the Garda Reserve of approximately 300.
The reduction in the strength of the Garda Reserve since 2013 arises from a range of factors, not least the lifting of the moratorium on recruitment of trainee Gardaí which has affected Reserve numbers in two ways - firstly over 160 serving Reserves have successfully applied to become trainee Gardaí, and secondly, resources in both An Garda Síochána and in the Public Appointment Service have been focused on delivering an accelerated programme of recruitment of full time members of An Garda Síochána. I am sure that the Deputy will agree, notwithstanding the very valuable contribution of Reserve members throughout the country, that it was the right decision, with finite resources, to prioritise the running of recruitment campaigns to replenish the full-time ranks of An Garda Síochána over the last two years.
I have also spoken to the Garda Commissioner in relation to the delivery of the commitment to double the Reserve to 2,000 and what steps might be taken to ensure that the expanded Reserve is used to best effect in support of visible policing. In this regard, the Garda Reserve Management Office is currently undertaking an audit of the experience and skills of Reserves which, when completed, will assist Garda management in considering the future role to be played by the Reserve. That office has also started work on the development of a recruitment plan with the objective of recruiting and training 300 new Reserves annually starting next year, to bring the strength of the Reserve up to 2,000. As part of the planning process, I understand that the Office is examining the possibility of recruitment at the regional or divisional level, rather than centrally, and also the manner in which the training is delivered.