1002. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of extra gardaí who have been hired in preparation for a hard Border; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34486/18]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): As the Deputy will be aware, the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade is coordinating the whole-of-Government response to Brexit. In this capacity, he is working closely with all Ministers, including myself, to address the many challenges of Brexit.
I do want to emphasise, however, that it is this Government’s firm intention that the same border arrangements as currently apply on the island of Ireland will continue. In its approach to the Brexit negotiations, the Government has ensured that protecting the gains of the Peace Process and the avoidance of a hard border is a high priority for Ireland, our partner Member States and the EU Commission.
As the Deputy is aware, the Garda Commissioner is responsible for the distribution of resources, including personnel. Garda management keep the distribution of resources under active review to meet operational and security demands, including any possible policing requirements post Brexit. In that respect, I met with the Garda Commissioner and his team recently to discuss Brexit contingency planning and I am assured that An Garda Síochána is preparing for Brexit with a wide-ranging focus to determine operational requirements, including personnel and technology. I am assured that An Garda Síochána will continue to progress their contingency preparations, and is committed to ensuring the organisation is prepared for the associated policing implications and challenges arising therefrom.
My Department is engaged on an on-going basis with An Garda Síochána as part of the deep and detailed work being undertaken right across Government and the public sector in response to the UK's decision to leave the EU. Indeed, in June Department officials and a senior member of An Garda Síochána met with the European Commission in Brussels to discuss North-South cooperation in the areas of law enforcement and police and judicial cooperation. Furthermore, An Garda Síochána is represented at a senior level in the ongoing discussions between my Department and the UK's Home Office in relation to the Common Travel Area.
An Garda Síochána works very closely with the Police Service of Northern Ireland in combating cross-border crime. This ongoing close co-operation, across the full range of policing responsibilities of both services, will continue in place regardless of the final shape of Brexit. Joint working is central to the shared objectives of An Garda Síochána and the Police Service of Northern Ireland to combat crime of all sorts and to promote community safety on the island of Ireland. There are many collaborative policing initiatives in place including the cross border policing strategy, updated and published by both police services in 2016, the annual cross border policing seminar on organised crime as well as formal protocols for secondments and exchanges between the two jurisdictions. In November 2015, the British and Irish Governments and the Northern Ireland Executive agreed a series of measures in the agreement A Fresh Start, The Stormont Agreement and Implementation Plan, as part of a concerted and enhanced effort to tackle organised and cross jurisdictional crime. These measures included the creation of the Joint Agency Task Force, which builds on existing law enforcement frameworks and to increase the collective effectiveness of operational law enforcement actions. These examples of the intensification of police co-operation are driven by a shared imperative to ensure normalisation in the security and policing environment, to promote reconciliation and to enhance community safety for all communities on the island. It is important that strong political leadership is in place to drive these initiatives on both sides of the border. In this regard I am sure that the Deputy will join me in calling for the full restoration of the Executive in Stormont as a matter of urgency.
I want to assure the Deputy that An Garda Síochána has the full support of the Government in dealing with the implications of Brexit and will provide whatever resources are required to keep our people and our communities safe. This is clearly demonstrated by the Government plan for an overall Garda workforce of 21,000 personnel by 2021, including 15,000 Garda members. I am informed by the Commissioner that since the reopening of the Garda College in September 2014, almost 2,000 recruits have attested as members of An Garda Síochána and have been assigned to mainstream duties nationwide of whom 193 have been assigned to the Northern Garda Region. Undoubtedly, the ongoing recruitment process will support all Garda activities and enhance visibility within our communities and will enable the Commissioner to deploy additional resources to meet the challenges of Brexit, should he deem it necessary.