CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY
Topical Issue Debate
8 January 2018
To discuss the continuing decline of Garda numbers in Dublin
Deputies John Lahart, Darragh O’Brien and Jim O’Callaghan.
I would like to thank the Deputies for raising this matter. I am taking this Topical Issue on behalf of Minister Flanagan.
I should say at the outset that the distribution of Gardaí is exclusively the statutory responsibility of the Garda Commissioner. That said, I am aware that Minister Flanagan met with the Commissioner and his management team as recently as Monday of this week and the issue of resources was one of the matters discussed.
The Commissioner has advised that the overall strength of the DMR as of the 31 December 2017 was 3,485. When appropriate, the work of local Gardaí in the DMR is supported by a number of Garda national units such as the Armed Support Unit, the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau and the Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau.
The Deputy will be aware that the Garda College in Templemore was closed in 2010. It was closed by the then Government because of the severe and catastrophic economic crisis that the country was plunged into. The closure of the College and the moratorium imposed at that time has obviously had an impact on numbers in An Garda Síochána and it would be disengenuous to attribute the decline in numbers to anything other than that factor.
When the last Government came into office, the initial focus was on stabilising the public finances and then returning the country to growth. Once that had been achieved, one of the Government’s first actions was to re-open the Garda College in Templemore. Since the reopening in September 2014, just under 1,600 recruits have attested as members of An Garda Síochána and have been assigned to mainstream duties nationwide. 719 or 45% have been assigned to the Dublin Metropolitan Region (DMR).
I am aware that while the Garda strength of the DMR East, North and North Central Divisions show an increase, albeit it slight between 2015 and 2017, the overall strength of the DMR shows a marginal reduction at the end of 2017 compared to 2015.
As the Deputies will appreciate the challenges presented by gangland crime over the past two years have necessitated investment in the specialist units to enhance their capacity to support the fight against this scourge. I am advised by the Commissioner that 100 extra Gardaí were assigned to the specialist units within Special Crime Operations in 2017. In addition, a dedicated Armed Support Unit for the DMR was established at the end of 2016 in order to enhance armed support capability in Dublin and to free up the resources of the Emergency Response Unit.
I can assure the House that the Government is committed to ensuring a strong and visible police presence throughout the country including on the streets of the capital in order to maintain and strengthen community engagement, provide reassurance to citizens and to deter crime. To make this a reality for all the Government has in place a plan for an overall Garda workforce of 21,000 personnel by 2021 including 15,000 Garda members.
Real, tangible progress has been made towards this goal. Garda numbers, taking account of projected retirements, increased to 13,551 at the end of 2017 - a net increase of over 600 since the end of 2016. I am pleased that funding is in place to maintain this high level of investment in the Garda workforce. This year a further 800 new Garda Recruits will enter the Garda College - 200 of whom have already entered since 29 January. Also 800 Garda trainees are scheduled to attest during the year which will see Garda numbers, taking account of projected retirements, reach 14,000 by the end of 2018.
Undoubtedly, the on-going recruitment process will support all Garda activities and enhance visibility within our communities and will enable the Commissioner to provide additional resources across the Dublin Metropolitan Region as new Garda recruits continue to come on stream.