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Passing out Ceremony
Garda Síochána College, Templemore
8th June 2016
Commissioner, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen and, of course, our new members of An Garda Síochána.
I am delighted to be here with you today to celebrate this very proud occasion for you, your families, and friends.
And I am honoured to have the opportunity to address you as you mark an important milestone in your career in An Garda Síochána and in your own lives.
From today you have full Garda powers. With such powers comes the great responsibility to use them appropriately, respecting the dignity of all persons you encounter in the course of carrying out your duties.
You have completed the first stage of what is a challenging and rigorous training programme and I congratulate you on that achievement. There is still much learning ahead of you before you are awarded your BA in Applied Police Studies. In two weeks you will take up your assignments in Garda stations around the country. And I urge you to listen and learn from your tutors, assimilate their knowledge and experience, and use it to good effect as you serve local communities across this country.
Earlier I reminded myself of the principles of this great institution which has protected peace and security since the foundation of this State.
Honesty, Accountability, Respect and Professionalism.
Principles are constant, they underpin everything you will do. But new ideas are the fuel that ensure these principles will continue to live and thrive and adapt to the realities of modern policing, an evolving police force, and a changing country.
So I urge you to bring your own fresh perspective and to share your ideas with your new colleagues across the Force.
The bond between An Garda Síochána and the community depends on trust and confidence. Public trust is earned by honesty, accountability, respect and professionalism. That is what the community expects from An Garda Síochána.
You will play an important role in your community and it is precisely because the service you will provide is so vital, so important to the well being of every citizen and our society as a whole, that you must ensure it is delivered to the very highest of standards.
The Report of the O’Higgins Commission of Inquiry identifies cases where standards were not met, where victims of crime were failed by An Garda Síochána. That is as unacceptable as it is disheartening and we must take all actions open to us to ensure that these shortcomings are not repeated.
Victims must be at the heart of the Garda service.
In the past the needs of victims of crime have sometimes been overshadowed by a focus on apprehending and prosecuting perpetrators. We must ensure that our response to criminal behaviour is a comprehensive one while putting the needs of victims at the forefront. I ask every one of you to think about what you can do to re-establish that trust and to ensure that victims of crime are well served when they come seeking your assistance and protection.
Reform and investment
The Government is focused on bringing about improvements that will make An Garda Síochána the world class policing service that we all want it to be. To achieve this goal a number of reforms have taken place together with significant investment in resources.
Most significantly the new independent Policing Authority has been establishment to oversee the performance by An Garda Síochána of its functions relating to policing services. I look forward to the Authority playing an important part in the ongoing reform process.
Another important reform is in the law protecting whistleblowers. The Protected Disclosures Act 2014 ensures that there is a range of options open to those who want to report wrong doing. Now any Garda can have their complaints independently examined by the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission.
These are just two examples of important reforms that have taken place. As I have said on many occasions, there is no end to reform for any organisation. Reform is an ongoing journey of practical and cultural change that can never cease. As members, you must be open to new thinking and embrace change.
In referring to the need for reforms, I am conscious that we should never fail to show our appreciation for the dedicated and selfless work that members of An Garda Síochána do. Since its foundation, An Garda Síochána has served this State well and the Government is committed to ensuring that it is well resourced and capable of providing a strong and visible police presence throughout the country. The Programme for Government commits to continuing the ongoing accelerated Garda recruitment programme with a view to increasing Garda numbers to 15,000.
In accelerating recruitment we must of course ensure that An Garda Síochána has the capacity to train larger numbers without any reduction in the quality of the training that new members receive. We must also ensure that appropriate supervision and support is continues to be provided to newly qualified Gardaí to ensure that victims, and the public generally, are well served. My Department is engaging with Garda management as a matter of priority in relation to the preparation of a recruitment plan for the next five years that will deliver increased numbers of Gardaí without any compromise on the quality of those recruited or the training programme.
In tandem with accelerated Garda recruitment there will be a fresh recruitment drive aimed at doubling the Garda Reserve and increased recruitment of civilians to free up Gardaí to front-line policing duties. This investment in personnel will be supported by an additional €205million in new technology and ICT to equip An Garda Síochána for the digital era and continued investment in the Garda fleet and in Garda stations.
You are entering the Force during an unprecedented cycle of violent, organised crime and murder in some areas of Dublin City.
I want to take this opportunity to acknowledge the work of An Garda Síochána in dealing with the unprecedented gangland violence in the last number of months.
Today I am pleased to announce that additional allocation of €50 million will be made available to An Garda Síochána for the remainder of 2016 on top of €5m previously announced in February.
This will ensure you - the Gardaí - have the necessary resources to face down the appalling and ruthless cycle of violence caused by organised crime.
However long it takes, whatever resources are necessary, we will face down the activities of these ruthless gangs. Of its nature it takes time but An Garda Síochána have defeated gangs who believed themselves to be untouchable before and you will do so again.
I intend to introduce legislative measures to strengthen the powers of the Criminal Assets Bureau to make it easier to seize assets and money from criminals. I have also notified the Government of my intention to bring forward proposals in the near future to enhance and update the legislative framework for the lawful interception of communications and for covert electronic surveillance, to combat the threats from serious and organised crime and terrorism.
In addition the Commissioner will be establishing a special crime Task Force, in cooperation with other agencies including the Revenue Commissioners and Department of Social Protection. The purpose of the Task Force will be to focus relentlessly on persons involved in gangland activities.
An Garda Síochána has my full support at every level for the work you are doing to confront these gangs, and for meeting the daily concerns of ordinary people in trying to keep them safe.
To conclude I know that each and every one of you will contribute in your own unique way to helping An Garda Síochána evolve and grow in a way that can bring great pride to you as individuals, to the organisation and to the country that you have vowed to serve.
I know you will enjoy a rewarding career within An Garda Síochána and that each of you leaves here with great enthusiasm, hopes and ambitions for the future. I ask that you use this energy to deliver a policing service we can all be proud of.
Bravery is the word I associate most with An Garda Síochána. I really admire the bravery of those who put themselves at risk so others can live peaceful lives. My final word to you today is to keep that bravery and that desire to do the right thing. Protect it. Nourish it with your ideas. And use it every day to improve your communities and improve An Garda Síochána.
I wish you the best of luck and wisdom in your career and I hope you all have a great day with your family and friends.