Minister pays tribute to Gardaí and civilian staff working over Christmas 

 

Minister emphasises road safety advice to road users and home owners 

 

Improvements in policing during 2017 are highlighted 

24 December 2017 

The Minister for Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan T.D. has today visited Portlaoise Garda station to meet Gardaí and civilian staff who are working over the Christmas holiday period to thank them for their service and to acknowledge the work done by all Garda personnel throughout the year and, in particular, over the holiday period  

Paying tribute to Garda personnel around the country and those serving abroad the Minister said “While most of us will be out celebrating the Christmas with families and friends, you and your colleagues will be on duty over the festive season ensuring the communities that you serve will have a police service to protect them and come to their assistance when help is needed. Like all members and staff of the uniformed services, your sacrifice at this time, is a clear illustration of your commitment to public service. 

“Portlaoise Garda Station is a busy place in a town with two prisons, one of which is a high security prison. Proximity to a busy motorway network and the fact that this station is the divisional headquarters for a diverse area taking in towns, villages and very rural areas means this station is a microcosm of some of the important work undertaken by Gardaí around Ireland.”  

The Minister took the opportunity to emphasise to the public the importance of heeding the simple message “don’t drink and drive” saying that “An Garda Síochána will be out in force conducting its Christmas and New Year road safety campaign and I would like to take this opportunity ask every road user, be it driver, passenger, motorcyclist, cyclist or pedestrian to be conscious of the choices they make over the Christmas period. Never, ever drink and drive, reduce your speed and be cognisant of road conditions especially when travelling on unfamiliar roads. 

“I am deeply conscious of the serious issue of road safety and of the traumatic impact of road traffic collisions on those directly affected and their families, especially over the Christmas period. I am also mindful of the impact of dangerous driving, including anti-social driving, more generally on the quality of life of residents in local communities across the country. Road Safety is a shared responsibility, one the Government and An Garda Síochána take very seriously.” 

The Minister assured the men and women of An Garda Síochána of the Government’s continuing support for the invaluable service they provide 24/7, 365 days a year. He pointed to the progress on the road to an overall Garda workforce of 21,000 by 2021, comprising 15,000 Garda members, 2,000 Reserve members and 4,000 civilians. Since the reopening of the Garda College in September 2014: 

· Close to 1,600 new Gardaí have joined An Garda Síochána and have taken up their assignments around the country; 

· Of these 900 took up their assignments this year reflecting the ramping up of recruitment to ensure that the goal of 15,000 by 2021 remains on target; 

· The strength of An Garda Síochána will be approximately 13,500 by the end of this year – a net increase of 500 over 2016 representing the first significant annual increase in Garda numbers since number started falling in 2009 due to the severe economic recession;  

· Some 800 trainees Gardaí entered the College this year with Budget 2018 providing for a further 800 recruits to enter next year; 

· Garda numbers will reach 14,000 by the end of next year. 

Emphasising the importance of Reserves and Civilian staff, the Minister said: 

“We will see the strength of the Garda Reserve start to increase next year with the first batch of new Garda Reserves starting training in the new year. Unprecedented investment in civilian staff to address critical skills and capacity gaps and to facilitate the redeployment of Gardaí to the front-line is in place with funding for a further 500 civilians to be recruited next year. This will free up uniformed Garda for frontline duties and support the wider reform programme underway across all areas of An Garda Síochána. 

This investment in personnel is complemented by substantial investment in resources across the board for An Garda Síochána. Some €330 million, including €205 million under the Capital Plan 2016 to 2021, is being invested in Garda ICT infrastructure over the period 2016 to 2021. The Capital Plan also provides for an investment of €46 million in the Garda fleet to ensure that An Garda Síochána has a modern, effective and fit for purpose fleet. This is in addition to the investment of almost €30 million in the period 2013 to 2015. In the period 2013 to end of 2017 almost €44 million will have been invested in the fleet with some 2,000 vehicles coming on stream in that period.”  

In relation to support for local communities to tackle crime the Minister highlighted the value of the Text Alert Scheme and the CCTV Scheme in place. 

The Minister reminded communities that funding is available for the Text Alert Rebate Scheme in 2017. The rebate is available to almost 1,000 local groups registered under the Garda Text Alert Scheme. At the Ploughing Championships in September, the Minister announced that his Department would provide €100,000 for the rebate scheme this year, and encouraged all groups to apply directly and without delay to Muintir na Tire to avail of the rebate. 

The Minister went on to say that “Community Alert and Text Alert in particular, are perfect example of citizens working in tandem with their local Gardaí to provide a safer community for all those who live there. Text Alert Groups are a vital link between the public and An Garda Síochána, and let no one have any doubt about the commitment of An Garda Síochána and this Government to ensure that we tackle crime in this country. Further information on these schemes is available on my Department’s website.” 

 

€1 million was secured in Budget 2017 to launch a new round of community CCTV schemes in line with the Programme for Government commitment to providing investment in CCTV systems. The scheme was launched on 13 April 2017 and is intended to run for 3 years. Any communities who wish to avail of the scheme are urged to contact the Department of Justice and Equality. 

Lock Up Light Up 

Minister Flanagan highlighted the importance of security measures, reinforcing the advice from An Garda Síochána, saying: 

 

“I would like to join An Garda Síochána in reminding people to “Lock Up and Light Up”. As we approach Christmas and the New Year, householders need to remain vigilant as, traditionally, the number of burglaries rise in winter time. I advise everyone to remember to turn on some lights, use timer switches and lock all doors and windows. If you are leaving the house over the festive period, to visit family or take a holiday, please remember to use an alarm, store extra keys away from windows and letter boxes and don’t store large amounts of cash or jewellery in your home. 

 

“An Garda Síochána will be working around the clock, as they do all year, to tackle the scourge of burglary gangs operating throughout the country. We have robust legislation in place but I want to encourage everyone to make an effort to ensure that their homes are safely secured over the Christmas period, and for the remainder of the winter months.” 

 

ENDS