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24 April 2017
Commissioner, distinguished guests, and of course our new members of An Garda Síochána.
It is a great honour to be standing here today to congratulate you on realising your ambition of becoming a proud member of An Garda Síochána.
It is a day to applaud your achievement in successfully completing 32 weeks of challenging and rigorous training during which you have accomplished the many skills required to deliver a 21st century policing service to the people of Ireland.
It is a proud day for your family and friends who have supported you on your journey and who are here today to witness your success and to celebrate this significant milestone in your career as a member of An Garda Síochána.
It is equally a proud day for this country to have 143 men and women answering the call to public service to support the mission of An Garda Síochána to protect and serve.
You are entering An Garda Síochána at a critical time in the almost 100-year history of our police service. Recent controversies, if not fully addressed, have the very real potential to undermine the traditional strong public trust that An Garda Síochána has enjoyed since the foundation of the State. Trust in policing is a cornerstone of any democracy and, once broken, is difficult to restore. But all of us who are ambitious for the future of policing in Ireland are determined that this will not happen.
And I know you are ambitious for policing in Ireland and are focused on supporting the transformation of An Garda Síochána into the world-class professional policing service that we all know it can to be.
There is a programme of major reform underway based on the reports of the Garda Inspectorate. It is being progressed through the Commissioner’s Modernisation and Renewal Programme 2016-2021 under the oversight of the independent Policing Authority.
In tandem with the reform programme 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. A recruitment campaign for the Garda Reserve has recently closed and I am pleased to say that it received a strong response.
The moratorium on recruitment of trainee Gardaí introduced in 2010 resulted in a significant reduction in the strength of An Garda Síochána but we are now rebuilding the organisation and providing the Commissioner with the resources she needs to allow her to implement her reform programme. You are the second of five classes of Garda trainees that will attest this year. In all 2017 will see 900 trainees become members of An Garda Síochána. This will bring Garda numbers, taking account of projected retirements, to around the 13,500 mark by year end, an increase of 500 from the end of 2016 – this is real progress on the road to 15,000 members.
This investment is people is backed by substantial investment in critical information technology including mobile technology to ensure that Gardaí are not tied to stations but are engaging with communities, and other facilities including the fleet and stations.
As members of An Garda Síochána you will face many challenges in the course of your day-to-day work. Nobody should underestimate the responsibility you have accepted in undertaking to protect and serve our communities. You will require a wide range of attributes and skills to fulfil your duty including empathy and compassion when dealing with victims of crime and their families at times of great distress, and courage and conviction to face down the many dangerous situations you will encounter such as when a gun is produced or a knife raised. You will also require courage in other areas
- to say “No” if an instruction is wrong,
- to shout “Stop” to a practice that may have been going on forever, but that should cease right there and then,
- to embrace and contribute to reform at all levels.
Of course this requires that managers at all ranks must also demonstrate courage and leadership by positively influencing your working environment through encouraging open dialogue and discussion as the norm.
Earlier this year I launched a Code of Ethics for An Garda Síochána developed by the Policing Authority.
It is not management speak or more bureaucracy. It is a statement of the ethical requirements for you and everyone working in An Garda Síochána and sets out norms of behaviour that the public are entitled to expect, and so expect.
Policing is an honourable profession of which the public expect the highest standards of conduct and practice.
Every member of An Garda Síochána at every level of the organisation must adhere to standards of conduct and practice set out in the Code to guide and inform your actions.
We are at a crucial time in determining the future of policing in this country.
The bond between An Garda Síochána and the community depends on trust and confidence.
You will play an important role in your community and it is precisely because the service you will provide is so vital, so important to the wellbeing of every citizen and our society as a whole, that you must ensure it is delivered to the very highest of standards.
As An Garda Síochána approaches its 100th anniversary Ireland is a very different country than it was at its foundation. It is facing challenges rooted in the rapidly changing nature of society and of crime. In these circumstances it is, I believe, right that we take a step back to ask some fundamental questions about how our State should be policed in the future, what structures are appropriate, to whom should it be accountable, what sort of culture should it embody. With this in mind, the Government has agreed in principle to establish an independent Commission on the future of policing and I published draft terms of reference before Easter for consultation with other parties. Those terms of reference are aimed at facilitating a comprehensive and thoroughgoing review of all aspects of policing. Such a Commission will allow a mix of Irish and international people of expertise and experience to bring their judgment to bear on one of the most important institutions we have as a nation. It will provide an opportunity for the country to have an honest discussion about how we are to be policed over the coming decades.
To conclude, I hope that each and every one of you contribute in your own unique way to helping An Garda Síochána evolve and grow in a way that can bring great pride to you as individuals, to the organisation and to the country that you have vowed to serve.
I know the road ahead will be challenging but I am also confident that it will be rewarding.
Each of you leaves here with great enthusiasm, hopes and ambitions for the future. I ask that you use this energy to deliver a policing service we can all be proud of.
I wish you the best of luck and wisdom in your career and I hope you all have a great day with your family and friends.