Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his views on the reason for the drop in the number of personnel exchanges from An Garda Síochána to the PSNI from 2015 onwards; the reason for the drop in the length of exchanges from an initial duration of two months to the current duration of three weeks; the quality of feedback reports on these exchanges; and the value of these exchanges. [20462/19]
205. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the action he has taken to promote exchanges and secondments between An Garda Síochána and the PSNI and vice versa beyond the initial legislation. [20463/19]
206. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if members of An Garda Síochána and-or the PSNI transfer on a temporary basis to aid with individual investigations; and if so, the legislation under which same is carried out. [20464/19]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): I propose to take Questions Nos. 204 to 206, inclusive, together.
As the Deputy will be aware, the Garda Commissioner is statutorily responsible for the management of An Garda Síochána, including personnel matters and I, as Minister, do not have responsibility for this matter.
The Inter-Governmental Agreement on Police Co-operation obliged both Governments to introduce the necessary administrative and legislative measures to provide for exchanges, secondments and appointments between the Garda Síochána and the PSNI. Section 52-54 of the Garda Síochána Act 2005 gives effect to these obligations.
The Act provides for the secondment from the PSNI to certain ranks in An Garda Síochána for a period not exceeding 3 years. Protocols are in place between the Garda Commissioner and the Chief Constable of the PSNI which provide for the implementation of a programme of personnel exchanges and secondments between the two police services.
As regards secondments, I am informed that one member of An Garda Síochána was seconded to the PSNI since 2005 with the same powers and duties as a member of the Police Service of Northern Ireland. No members of the PSNI have been seconded to An Garda Síochána.
In November 2015, the British and Irish Governments and the Northern Ireland Executive agreed a series of measures in ‘A Fresh Start’, the Stormont Agreement and Implementation Plan. One of these measures was the creation of a Cross Border Joint Agency Task Force (JATF) as part of “a concerted and enhanced effort to tackle organised and cross jurisdictional crime.” The Operations Co-ordination Group (comprised of senior operational management personnel from the relevant law enforcement agencies) has been functioning operationally since 4th April, 2016 and is coordinating joint operations and directing relevant resources in respect of six priority areas, which are as follows:
1. Rural Crime
3. Financial Crime
4. Trafficking in Human Beings Including Children
5. Excise Fraud
6. Organised Immigration Crime
The “Cross Border Policing Strategy” acts as the over-arching delivery strategy for the work of the Joint Agency Task Force, which consists of a Strategic Oversight Group and an Operations Co-ordination Group.
The Joint Agency Task Force Strategic Oversight Group is jointly chaired by An Garda Síochána and the Police Service of Northern Ireland. The purpose of this group is to provide strategic direction and oversight to front-line operational activities. Two meetings take place annually in both locations and an operational report/assessment is drawn up every six months.
8 of the 14 Districts of the Northern Region border with Northern Ireland, and in this regard, there is regular engagement between An Garda Síochána and the Police Service of Northern Ireland in relation to day-to-day operations and specific targets or events.
Regarding the Deputy's questions on the drop in the number of personnel exchanges from An Garda Síochána to the PSNI from 2015 onwards; the reason for the drop in the length of exchanges; the quality of feedback reports on these exchanges, and the value of these exchanges: I have asked the Commissioner for this specific information required and I will revert when it is to hand.