Topical Issue Debate
Speech by Minister Charlie Flanagan on Garda Resources in North Kildare
I would like to thank the Deputies for raising this matter.
I should say at the outset that the distribution of Garda personnel and resources generally is exclusively the statutory responsibility of the Garda Commissioner as the allocation is based on a range of different factors, including policing needs assessed based on crime trends and Garda intelligence.
I am assured by the Garda Commissioner that personnel assigned throughout the country, together with the overall policing arrangements and operational strategies are continually monitored and reviewed. Such monitoring ensures that optimum use is made of resources and the best possible policing service is provided to the general public.
I am further informed by the Commissioner that the overall strength of the Kildare Division as of the 31 January 2018, the latest date for which figures are available, was 357, a 14% increase on the number at the end of 2015. Of particular interest to the Deputy will be that the strength of the Leixlip and Nass Garda Districts increased by 28% and 9% respectively over the same period. When appropriate, the work of local Gardaí in the Kildare Division 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 closure of the Garda College in 2010 and the moratorium imposed at that time had a negative impact on Garda numbers across all Divisions. Since the Government reopened the College in September 2014, just under 1,800 recruits have attested as members of An Garda Síochána and have been assigned to mainstream duties nationwide. including 85 to the Kildare Division.
I can assure the House that the Government is committed to ensuring a strong and visible police presence throughout the country 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 800 Garda trainees will enter the Garda College, 200 of whom have already entered since January. A further 800 Garda trainees are scheduled to attest this year with over 200 ‘passing out’ of the Garda College just last week. I am pleased to say that this continued investment will bring Garda numbers, taking account of projected retirements, to 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 all Divisions, including the Kildare Division as new Garda recruits continue to come on stream.
The investment in personnel is complemented by substantial investment in resources across the board for An Garda Síochána. A total budget of €1.65 billion has been provided to An Garda Síochána in 2018, an increase of 2% on 2017. Some €98.5m has been provided for Garda overtime for 2018 which represents an increase of €10 million over the initial allocation for 2017. It should be noted that the Garda allocation substantially continues to benefit from the significant additional funding that was provided in 2016, and maintained in 2017, to fund the sustained response to tackle gangland crime, fund the continuation of Operation Thor and ensure that measures to prevent international terrorism can be continued.
Some €342 million, including €217 million in additional funding under the Capital Plan, is being invested in Garda ICT infrastructure between 2016 and 2021. This major investment will allow An Garda Síochána to deploy the latest cutting edge technologies in the fight against crime and will facilitate progress on important reforms arising from the Garda Inspectorate's report on Crime Investigation.
This investment will facilitate the provision of more effective policing services and I expect that the Kildare Division, like all other Garda Divisions will benefit from these new resources becoming available.