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Killashee House Hotel, Naas, Co Kildare
Wednesday 3 May 2017
Chair, distinguished delegates, I am delighted to be invited to join you here this evening.
An Garda Síochána is going through a difficult period. Serious issues have been revealed that have damaged trust.
Public respect and support for An Garda Síochána remains, but this cannot ever be taken for granted.
Public respect is based on public trust.
And maintaining that trust - increasing that trust, requires profound and lasting change.
The reality of course is that reform is happening. Indeed, there are clear tangible reforms that are, if I might use the phrase, ‘hiding in full view’ of anyone who cares to look.
Let me give you a simple but very important example. The most significant reform in the governance and accountability structures of An Garda Síochána occurred on the 1st of January 2016 with the establishment of the Policing Authority.
We now have, inserted between the Commissioner and the Minister an independent Policing Authority that can question in public all aspects of the policing of the state. We saw this questioning in action in Dublin Castle last week and even some of those who have questioned the value of the model have had to concede the significance of the public exercise of that oversight.
On the 1st of January of this year, the Authority took over responsibility for making appointments to the ranks of Assistant Commissioner, Chief Superintendent and Superintendent.
And there has been other significant reform. Civilianisation has been recognised as an area ripe for reform for years. Civilians in the Garda Síochána were concentrated at the lower grades. 14% of Garda staff are civilians. But this too is changing. The Government has set a target of doubling the number of civilians to 4,000 by 2021. This year, an additional 500 civilians will be recruited. Areas such as HR, IT, Finance are being civilianised, as is the Technical Bureau. By 2021, the proportion of civilians in An Garda Síochána will reach 20% to be more closely aligned with international norms. The numbers in the Reserve will increase to 2,000 and I am delighted with the response to the recent competition, which attracted over 2,500 applications.
The Government’s investing significant resources in ICT, vehicles and accommodation.
Specifically related to ICT some €330 million, including €205 million under the Capital Plan, is being invested over the period 2016 to 2021. New Garda ICT solutions has been delivered over the past number of years. These include the deployment of a secure national digital radio system (NDRS), the deployment and support of Garda and Community CCTV systems, an automated number plate recognition (ANPR) system, an e-Vetting system and the addition of many new functions to the PULSE system, which itself is further supported by a dedicated data entry service in Castlebar.
There is also major investment underway in relation to a number of EU ICT projects, such as PRUM and Schengen, to improve police co-operation across Europe and ensure we are prepared for any possibility of a terrorist attack.
The Commissioner has also commenced the roll-out of a Divisional model of policing to support the more efficient deployment of resources. This will require change to your role as Superintendents. It will allow you to focus on core policing activities with support functions such as HR, finance and so on, being managed by suitably qualified civilians who will be part of the Divisional management team. It is being done on a pilot basis initially so that learnings captured in an evaluation can inform the future roll-out across the country.
Your professional feedback and expertise on this will be a very important contribution to the future development of this model. I discussed this in detail with your representatives recently.
This year saw the launch in January of the Code of Ethics of An Garda Síochána. It is a tribute to the Policing Authority and to all of you who contributed to its development, that the Code was completed on time and published. The Code is a common-sense, easily understood, document – a touchstone for behaviours that are a feature of the vast majority of the members of An Garda Síochána already. You as Superintendents have an important role in embedding the Code and in ensuring that the men and women that you lead live up to the Code and I encourage you in that work.
It would be remiss of me to discuss ethics and not mention the recent controversy over MATs and FCNs. The MATs issue, at face value, raises potentially serious ethical and cultural issues for the Garda Síochána. I have said before and I say it again here today, this is not about blame. It is though, about responsibility. It is about doing the right thing. It is about how we go about our business. I don’t need to tell you, as managers in An Garda Síochána, that supervisors and managers are responsible for what goes on on their watch. We need to find out what happened, why it happened, and make sure it never happens again. As Superintendents, you have a clear role to play in this.
As you know, I have asked the Policing Authority to conduct an audit of the issues and to report to me at quarterly intervals on the progress of the audit. Credibility and confidence are hard won, but easily lost. We all need to work to ensure that whatever damage has been done by these most recent controversies is addressed comprehensively and conclusively so that the focus can be where it should be – on the good work that is done every day by members of An Garda Síochána.
The threatened industrial action by members of the GRA and AGSI last Autumn was serious in its own right with major implications for the policing and security of the state had it gone ahead. I want to acknowledge the support that your Association gave to the Commissioner and the service that you were prepared to provide in the circumstances. On my own behalf and on behalf of the Government I want to recognise and acknowledge that. I also want to acknowledge that the Labour Court recommendation that resolved the dispute has led to anomalies for your members, including in relation to the rent allowance. I have met with the Association on these matters and I can assure you that I am determined that these anomalies will be addressed in the context of the forthcoming pay talks.
On the broader issue of industrial relations, the events of last year have highlighted the need to take a fresh look at how industrial relations matters are dealt with in An Garda Síochána. The Government agreed to grant access to the Associations to the WRC and Labour Court and work is progressing on that. I know that your Association has met the Working Group chaired by John Murphy and you have been invited to make a written submission.
Whatever the shape of the legislation that emerges, it is abundantly clear that the industrial relations architecture in An Garda Síochána must be sufficiently robust to address legitimate grievances when they arise and be fair in how it deals with those. It must also reflect the unique nature of policing and the reliance that citizens place on members of An Garda Síochána to protect them 24/7, 365 days of the year. It is important that we get this right and I welcome the constructive approach that your Association has taken to this work.
Returning to the reform agenda.
A review of the legislative provisions relating to the manner in which complaints are made to, and dealt with by GSOC, is underway. With GSOC being in operation some 10 years it is time to ensure that we have a system enables GSOC to carry out its functions more effectively and efficiently and continue to ensure proper accountability of An Garda Síochána in providing a service to the public.
More fundamentally, the Government is about to establish a Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland. The time is ripe for a fundamental review of how Ireland should be policed as we approach the centenary of the foundation of An Garda Síochána. The Commission is being given a wide remit – in effect, every aspect of policing is to be reviewed. I want to make clear however that it is the Government’s clear expectation that the reform programme currently underway in the Commissioner’s Modernisation and Renewal Programme continues and preferably at a faster pace. The Commission will be engaging with all interests, including the Associations and I am sure you will have plenty to say and that is welcome.
It is important to note the many recent successes in fighting crime. The crime figures published by the CSO confirm these.
Burglary down 29.8%.
Robbery down 18.7%.
Theft down 14.3%.
The evil scourge of gang related crime is being met head on. Operation Hybrid is coordinating the response to violent crime in Dublin and addressing public concerns about community safety. There have been a large number of arrests and charges have brought in connection with the recent shootings and for related offences. Large numbers of firearms have been seized. Over eleven thousand lines of enquiry conducted. In excess of twenty five thousand high visibility checkpoints have been implemented. Joint operations with other police forces and cooperation with international agencies continues at an unprecedented level – all targeting the activities of organised crime gangs.
The dedicated Armed Support Unit for the Dublin Metropolitan Region now operates on a 24/7 basis providing appropriate armed support as required. The Unit has been involved in a number of successes and associated with a total of 248 serious incidents in a three-month period.
A new Garda Special Crime Task Force in the DMR, under the Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau, has been established to augment the response to organised crime at a local level through concentrated policing. This multi-agency approach to targeting the proceeds of crime is underpinned by new legislation I enacted last summer.
All of this has led to a reduction in crime and increased public safety. You have redoubled your efforts in the face of very serious threats. So, as criticism is sometimes warranted, acknowledgement is required too. Constant criticism erodes confidence and energy. I want to say thank you for those efforts.
Let me conclude by again thanking you for inviting me to address you here today. I hope you have a very successful conference and look forward to working with you in the coming year.