286. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of civilians recruited to An Garda Síochána in 2018; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41908/18]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): As the Deputy will be appreciate, it is the Garda Commissioner who has responsibility to carry on and manage and control generally the administration and business of An Garda Síochana, including by arranging for the recruitment, training and appointment of its members and civilian staff.
I am informed by the Garda Commissioner that as of 12 October, 282 civilians have been recruited to An Garda Síochána in 2018. This excludes another 6 staff who have been recruited on secondment. Some of these civilian staff were recruited to backfill existing vacancies, some were to facilitate the redeployment of Gardaí to frontline duties and others were to fill newly created civilian posts to fill skill gaps across the organisation.
The Deputy will be aware that as part of the Five Year Reform and High-level Workforce Plan for An Garda Síochána, the Government has agreed an overall vision for a Garda workforce of 21,000 personnel by 2021 to include 15,000 Garda members, 2,000 Garda Reserve members and 4,000 civilians. The projected 4,000 civilians represents a medium-term target of 20% of the Garda full-time workforce comprised of civilians. This target will be achieved through a twin-track approach of firstly, a “civilian by default” policy to be adopted in relation to the filling of all new posts other than operational policing posts and for non-operational policing posts that become vacant and, secondly, the redeployment of Gardaí to policing roles where their skills can be used to best effect with the backfilling of these roles by suitably qualified civilians where necessary. The Garda Inspectorate identified some 1,500 posts held by Gardaí that could be examined for suitability for civilian staff.
Progress is being made in relation to civilianisation. Since the beginning of 2017 approximately 300 new civilian posts have been sanctioned by the Policing Authority with the consent of my Department and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. The bulk were to address critical skills gaps and capacity issues with a proportion sanctioned to make a start on the redeployment of Gardaí to policing duties.
The most recent overall figure provided to me by the Commissioner indicates that, as at 31 August 2018 approximately 2,330 civilians were employed in An Garda Síochána. I am encouraged that the number of civilians working in An Garda Síochána continues to advance however it is clear that the pace of civilianisation needs to increase. I note that the Report of the Commission for the Future of Policing in Ireland recommends the return of Gardaí to front line policing and the need for visible policing. My Department has consulted with the Garda Commissioner with regard the recommendations within the Report and I await his proposals including how he will increase the pace of civilianisation and the redeployment of Gardaí to main stream policing duties.