67. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality if the number of gardaí in the traffic corps will be increased in 2017; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40447/16]
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 the Traffic Corps, among the various Garda Regions, Divisions and Districts, and I as Minister, I have no direct role in the matter.
I am informed by the Garda authorities that, as of 31 October 2016, the latest date which figures are readily available, the strength of the Traffic Corps stood at 672 members. I am assured by the Garda Commissioner that Garda personnel assigned throughout the country, together with the overall policing arrangements and operational strategies are continually monitored and reviewed. Such monitoring ensures that optimum use is made of resources and the best possible policing service is provided to the general public.
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 deter 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.
Taking account of projected retirements, reaching a strength of 15,000 will require some 3,200 new Garda members to be recruited on a phased basis over the next four years in addition to the 1,200 that will have been recruited by the end of this year since the reopening of the Garda College in September 2014. This is an ambitious target and will require a continuous pipeline of suitable candidates. I am pleased to say that the recruitment campaign launched by the
Public Appointments Service on behalf of the Commissioner last September, the second campaign this year, again received a strong response.
I am further informed by the Garda Commissioner that since the reopening of the Garda College, 679 recruits have attested as members of An Garda Síochána and have been assigned to mainstream duties nationwide. I expect that the Traffic Corps, like all Garda Divisions and policing activities will benefit from this accelerated recruitment which is complemented by substantial investment in resources across the board for An Garda Síochána. This investment will support the delivery of An Garda Síochána’s Modernisation and Renewal Programme 2016-2021 which sets key strategic objectives for Roads Policing and will inform and guide An Garda Síochána’s road policing plans over the next 5 years.
Insofar as road traffic enforcement is concerned generally, An Garda Síochána's Roads Policing Operations Plan 2016 incorporates a programme of high visibility road safety and enforcement operations, carried out in partnership with other state agencies, and is being implemented by each Regional Traffic Superintendent. The focus of the Plan is on the most vulnerable road user categories of motor cyclists, pedal cyclists, pedestrians and learner permit holders. Garda operations specifically target road use behaviour known to contribute significantly to collisions, including speeding, driving while intoxicated, and use of a mobile phone.
Road traffic legislation is also enforced as part of the day to day duties of members of An Garda Síochána. Both targeted and general methods of enforcement have a valuable role to play in An Garda Síochána 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.