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Address by the Tánaiste and the Minister for Justice and Equality, Frances Fitzgerald TD
at the Garda Passing Out Parade
17 November 2016
Garda College, Templemore
Commissioner, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen and, of course, our new members of An Garda Síochána,
It's just great to be here today to celebrate with you this proud occasion for you, for your families, and for your friends.
This parade and this ceremony are tangible demonstrations of your dedication to the training you've done here in the College. I always enjoy it.
I’m sure you have also made many friends here, friends who you have marched with today and who hopefully will be your life long colleagues.
Today you have become members of An Garda Síochána; you have made a solemn declaration that you “will faithfully discharge the duties of a member of the Garda Síochána with fairness, integrity, regard for human rights, diligence and impartiality, upholding the Constitution and the laws and according equal respect to all people”.
The role of a member of An Garda Síochána is one of the most important to the functioning of our democracy. In your work you will be a source of reassurance to the members of the communities that you serve; you will be with them in their hours of need, sometimes at times of great distress. Being a member of An Garda Síochána isn’t an easy job; we all know the names of brave Gardaí who lost their lives in the line of duty.
Each and every one of you enters the ranks knowing there will be challenging days ahead of you yet determined to protect and serve your fellow citizens “with fairness, integrity, regard for human rights, diligence and impartiality”. I salute you, and thank you on behalf of your fellow citizens, for making that solemn declaration.
You are entering An Garda Síochána at an exciting time for the organisation, at a time of change. We rightly celebrate the proud tradition of An Garda Síochána. We also know it must evolve to keep pace with our society.
The Government has recently agreed a Five Year Reform and High-level Workforce Plan for the Force. The plan is ambitious and on a scale not previously attempted. It learns the lessons of past attempts at reform – reform and resources must go hand in hand in a complex organisation like this one which has suffered historical deficits in investment.
The Government has agreed to my proposal to increase the overall size of the Garda organisation to 21,000 by the year 2021. This will be made up of 15,000 Garda but also a doubling of the numbers of your civilian colleagues to 4,000 and a doubling of the Garda Reserve to 2,000. This high visibility policing will fulfil a key commitment in the Programme for Government and is a direct response to what the public have told us they need.
Another key reform is further civilianisation. An Garda Síochána currently employ a far lower percentage of civilians than other similar police services. The plan sets a target of 20% civilians by 2021 which will bring Ireland more in line with international norms and ensure that trained Gardaí are not engaging in administrative and technical duties which could be done just as well by suitably qualified civilian staff. Civilians can free up Gardaí and fill critical skills gaps to address deficits in areas like corporate supports, change management, human resources, finance and ICT. The plan aims to return as many Gardaí as possible to front-line duties by 2021; Gardaí who like you have been trained to work on the frontline and provide such valuable services to our communities.
In the last Budget I secured the funding to ensure that we can make a strong start in realising this vision for the overall workforce; 800 Garda trainees; up to 500 additional civilians; and 300 new members of the Reserve are to be recruited next year. The Commissioner and her team are focused on delivering what a significant milestone on the road to an overall workforce of 21,000 in five years’ time.
Too many reform programmes wither on the vine of implementation. The Government is determined that the clear commitment of the Commissioner to her Modernisation and Renewal Plan is supported by the Policing Authority who have been given the responsibility for overseeing and monitoring the implementation of the Inspectorate Report. I expect to receive the first progress report from the Authority in January and at quarterly after that.
The Government’s vision for An Garda Síochána which I know is shared by the Commissioner, sees each of you having a thoroughly rewarding career while making massive contribution to the communities you serve. Each of you will contribute to the organisation in your own unique way and add to the great legacy you share with all who have gone before you.
I wish you all the very best of luck and wisdom in your career and I hope you all enjoy a great day today with your family and friends.