49. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the extra investment being made in Garda resources in the Cavan-Monaghan Garda division in 2018. [51704/17]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): As the Deputy will appreciate, it is the Garda Commissioner who is responsible for the distribution of resources among the various Garda Divisions and I, as Minister, have no direct role in the matter. Garda management keeps this distribution of resources under continual review in the context of crime trends and policing priorities so as to ensure that the optimum use is made of these resources.
Indeed, some €1.65 billion has been allocated to the Garda Vote for 2018. This is an increase of approximately 2% over the allocation for 2017 and includes almost €100 million for Garda overtime. Some €1.61 billion was allocated to the Garda Vote for 2017 and €1.55 billion in 2016.
I am informed by the Commissioner that on 31 October 2017, the latest date for which figures are readily available, the strength of the Cavan/Monaghan Division was 324 members. There are also 11 Garda Reserves and 37 civilians attached to the Division. When appropriate, the work of local Gardaí is supported by a number of Garda national units such as the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, the Armed Response Unit, the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau and the Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau.
I am further informed by the Commissioner that since the reopening of the Garda College in September 2014, close to 1,400 recruits have attested as members of An Garda Síochána and have been assigned to mainstream duties nationwide, 44 of whom have been assigned to the Cavan/Monaghan Division. In addition, another 200 trainee Garda are scheduled to attest next month which will see Garda numbers, taking account of projected retirements, increase to around the 13,500 mark by year end - an increase of 500 since the end of 2016.
This 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. The substantial increase in Garda numbers is tangible progress on achieving this Government’s vision of an overall Garda workforce of 21,000 personnel by 2021 comprising 15,000 Garda members, 2,000 Reserve members and 4,000 civilians.
I am pleased to say that Budget 2018 will support the continuation of this high level of investment in the Garda workforce and ensure that the vision of an overall workforce of 21,000 by 2021 remains on track. A further 800 new Garda Recruits will enter the Garda College, an additional 500 civilians will also be recruited to fill critical skills gaps across the organisation and to facilitate the redeployment of Gardaí from administrative and technical duties to front-line operational duties. There are plans to strengthen the Garda Reserve with new Reserves expected to commence training early in 2018.
This focus on investment in personnel is critical. The moratorium on recruitment introduced in 2010 resulted in a significant reduction in the strength of An Garda Síochána. We are now rebuilding the organisation and providing the Commissioner with the resources needed to deploy increasing numbers of Gardaí across every Garda Division, including the Cavan/Monaghan Division, in the coming years.
The Deputy will, of course, be aware of the recommendation to reopen the former Garda station in Bawnboy, in addition to 5 other former stations, that is contained in the Garda Commissioner’s final report on the station reopening pilot project. I am informed that the Commissioner has written to the Office of Public Works to progress the matter.
The Deputy will also be aware that there are plans to build a new Garda station in Bailieboro and I understand that the Office of Public Works has now progressed the acquisition of the site in question and is proceeding to the planning stage of the project.