The Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Mr. Alan Shatter, T.D., today commented that, while he welcomes the budget allocation of €2.261 billion being provided for the Justice Sector for 2012, he also acknowledges that the allocation represents a reduction of slightly over €100 million on the corresponding allocation for 2011. This, together with the €24 million reduction in the capital allocation for 2012 which was announced in recent weeks, will present a very significant challenge for all areas of the Justice Sector in 2012.
The Minister added, "the dreadful financial legacy inherited from the previous Government requires all of us to make difficult decisions and, like all other areas of public expenditure, there is no magic formula for generating money for the Justice area. We have a continuing obligation to contribute to the overall reduction in public expenditure that must be achieved in the public interest to enable our State regain economic sovereignty."
The target current expenditure allocations for 2013 and 2014 are €2.198 billion and €2.082 billion respectively or an overall further reduction in funding of almost €179 million by 2014.
The Minister said that "while the reduction in budget is challenging, we now have to plan to ensure that the most critical areas within the sector are prioritised for funding, and that the resources will be concentrated on those areas."
The Minister also noted that "the 2005 Justice current expenditure allocation was €1.9 billion. The Justice Sector functioned with that allocation, and will continue to function properly with the new allocations. In light of the very serious challenges facing the State, the Government has recognised the importance of allocating this level of funding to the Justice Sector."
The Minister also pointed to the significant transformation programme in place across the Justice Sector - including the main operational areas such as An Garda Síochána, Prisons and Courts - with the objective of ensuring that key front-line services are efficiently maintained in an era of reduced budgets and staffing resources. "The transformation programme is examining every aspect of the way in which work is done and resources are deployed, with the objective of maintaining front-line services to the public to the maximum extent possible."
A significant element of the Justice Sector Vote is the Garda Vote, which has a current expenditure allocation of €1.425 billion and a further €20.4 million in capital to support and develop its main IT and communications systems. In line with the change programme in place across An Garda Síochána, all areas of operation and expenditure are currently under review, with the aim of ensuring that the maximum value is gained from every euro invested.
One of the most significant areas of operation relates to the provision and manning of Garda stations across the country and the Minister, today, announced plans, prepared by the Commissioner under the draft policing plan for 2012, for the closure of 31 Garda stations throughout the country and for a reduction in the public opening hours of 10 Garda stations in the Dublin Metropolitan Region. The plan also formally recognises the closure of eight other Garda stations which, while still listed as Garda stations, are already non-operational and will not re-open.
The 31 Garda stations which are to be closed during 2012 are as follows:
Dublin Metropolitan Region (4)
Rush, Whitehall, Dalkey and Harcourt Terrace
Western Region (8)
Corrandulla in Galway
Glenisland, Tourmakeady, Mulranny and Bellacorrik in Mayo
Loughglynn and Cootehall in Roscommon/Longford
Carrigaholt in Clare
Southern Region (10)
Shanagolden and Doon in Limerick;
Glenville in Cork North
Knocknagree, Ballyfeard, Goleen and Inchigeela in Cork West
Ballylongford, Moyvane and An Clochán in Kerry
Northern Region (8)
Clontibret and Smithborough in Monaghan
Tullyvin in Cavan
Culdaff and Dunkineely in Donegal
Kiltyclogher, Bunnanadden and Drumkeeran in Sligo /Leitrim
South Eastern Region (1)
The eight Garda stations which are already non-operational and which will not re-open are: Castletownsend and Ballygurteen in Cork West; Ballinure and Ballinderry in Tipperary; Ballywilliam in Wexford; Doochary in Donegal; Geashill in Laois/Offaly and Tarmonbarry in Roscommon/Longford.
The Commissioner also proposes to reduce the public opening hours of the following stations in the Dublin Metropolitan Region: Cabinteely, Stepaside, Kill O’ the Grange, Sundrive, Terenure, Cabra, Malahide, Santry, Howth, and Donnybrook. These stations are currently open to the public on a 24-hour basis and will, in future, be closed to the public between 10.00pm and 8.00am.
Making the announcement, the Minister said "We presently have 703 Garda Stations, 47 of which are in Dublin. An Garda Síochána, like all public service agencies, must introduce new efficiencies so as to make the best possible use of available resources. This will mean focusing resources on frontline operational services. In some cases it will mean using a different model for delivering a policing service to a local community, through a rationalisation of Garda stations and revised patterns of patrols. Similar rationalisation of police stations commenced some years ago in Northern Ireland and last week it was reported that the Policing Board were considering proposals to close 34 out of 83 stations as part of a cost-cutting plan by the PSNI.
Eight of the closures being announced today are formal closures of stations which, while currently listed as Garda stations, are no longer operational and, in some cases, have not been for a number of years. In the case of these stations, these formal closures simply recognise current reality.
In relation to the 31 actual station closures being announced, which will take place during the course of 2012, I want to assure people living in the areas close to and served by those stations that the Garda Síochána is committed to continuing to provide the most professional and effective policing service possible to them. The areas in question will be covered by other local stations and An Garda Síochána will communicate with local communities in relation to the changes that will come about during 2012 in the policing arrangements in those areas.
The plans also include reduced public opening hours for ten Garda stations in Dublin. These stations, which are currently open to the public on a 24 hour basis, will now be open to the public from 8am to 10pm daily. Instead of having Gardaí behind the public counter in these stations at night, when there is little demand for that service, this will free-up those Gardaí for front-line operational duties in these areas. This is an example of making better use of resources by implementing long-promised reforms.
It is my priority to see that frontline policing services are maintained as far as possible, even at a time of reduced resources. The number of closures being announced today is very small compared to the 703 Garda stations listed throughout the country which include 47 stations in Dublin. These are very high figures by international standards, and they have hardly changed since the foundation of the State, despite the huge advances in transport, communications and technology in recent years. I expect that there will be further rationalisation of Garda services in the years ahead. Modern policing is not simply about a bricks and mortar presence in every locality, but the delivery of a professional service to every community using all the modern capacities of An Garda Síochána.
I know that the reduced resources available to the Garda Síochána will be challenging. There will have to be changes, and priorities will have to be set, but I believe that the Force has the capacity to continue to provide a first-class policing service to the public. I want to thank the Commissioner and every member of An Garda Síochána for their vital work and to assure them of my unwavering support in the challenging times ahead."
In related areas, the Criminal Assets Bureau and the Forensic Science Laboratory give significant support to the Gardaí in the fight against organised and serious crime and, accordingly, in recognition of this the Government has decided to maintain funding for them at 2011 levels.
Despite the reduction in the capital budget for the Prison Service, the Minister is satisfied that the funding provided will allow for the completion of building works in the Midlands Prison and the Dóchas Centre in Dublin to provide in the region of over 370 much needed additional prison spaces in 2012.
Funding of over €40 million, which represents a modest increase of €1.4 million over 2011 expenditure levels is being made available to the Probation Service in 2012, which will support a range of initiatives in this area, including the pilot project for an incentivised scheme for earned temporary release under which offenders who pose no threat to the community are offered early release in return for supervised community service.
A current expenditure budget of over €33 million is also being provided for the Property Registration Authority.
There is, of course a need to effect essential savings in the Criminal Legal Aid Scheme and in this context there is a reduction of €10 million on the expected expenditure level in 2011. However, the Government has recognised that in the current economic circumstances there are considerable pressures in the resources available to the Civil Legal Aid Scheme, and has maintained funding to the Scheme at existing levels. In addition, funding to the Free Legal Advice Centres has been maintained at 2011 levels.
The Minister is pleased also that there is funding in the Justice estimates of over €2.8 million in respect of the Family Mediation Service. This is reflected in the budget for the Legal Aid Board, which has recently taken over responsibility for the Service. It has also been possible, despite the difficult financial climate, to maintain the budgetary levels for both the Equality Authority and Human Rights Commission at broadly the same levels as in 2011.
The Minister added "the total current expenditure funding available to the Justice Vote for 2012 is €392 million. This covers nearly 60 subheads, and includes allocations of funding to agencies and organisations in the areas of immigration and asylum, equality, disability and human rights, charities, youth justice and others. This represents a reduction of €15 million and, in light of this, priority will be given to those organisations that are actually providing services and, accordingly, there will be limited funding available for non-governmental organisations which are largely engaged in an advocacy role".
In concluding, the Minister pointed to the substantial progress being made in relation to a number of proposals which emerged from the Comprehensive Review of Expenditure which has been undertaken across the Sector over recent months. He mentioned, in particular:
- The cross-cutting reforms which will be implemented across the Sector to ensure more streamlined interaction between the various components of the Criminal Justice system, with consequent efficiencies and cost savings for all concerned, and
- The structural reform being progressed in areas such as the immigration and asylum areas, which aim to achieve a more streamlined and less costly operation while maintaining the current high levels of transparency and standards in operations.
5 December 2011
Notes to Editor
Northern Ireland Police Stations
In 2001 there were well over 130 police stations in Northern Ireland. That number has been reduced so that there are now 83 police stations currently operative. The PSNI has recently indicated that a further 34 stations are the subject of review and it may be that the total of 83 stations may be reduced further.