Wednesday 10 May 2017
I am pleased to be here at the Backweston campus today to officially mark the commencement of the construction of the new Forensic Science Laboratory. 
The vision of Forensic Science Ireland is “Science Supporting Justice” and that sums up very concisely the unique and vital role FSI plays in the Irish criminal justice system. FSI delivers independent expert opinion, advice, training and research to support the work of An Garda Síochána to investigate crime.  It provides a range of services, from crime scene attendance to presentation of evidence in court and all of the analysis in between.  Its role in assisting An Garda Síochána in the investigation of crime is integral to putting the most serious, prolific criminals behind bars.
The need for a new purpose built forensic science laboratory appropriate to the State's requirements is long-standing and is one of the most critical capital projects in the justice sector. Money was provided in the Government’s Capital Plan to construct this facility with work originally scheduled to commence in 2019. Given the expansion of FSI and the services it provides, I prioritised this project and was happy, therefore, that €6 million was provided in my Department’s budget to enable the commencement of building work in 2017, two years earlier than originally planned. 
Turning the first sod today marks the commencement of a building project that will provide a fitting home for the FSI in its ongoing role to support the criminal justice system. The new custom-built facilities will allow for greater efficiencies and a much-improved service in analysing samples submitted from crime scenes and providing expert evidence in criminal trials. It represents a significant and important investment in our criminal justice system and it is a practical demonstration of the Government’s commitment to investing in the fight against crime. 
The new laboratory will be a world-class facility that will serve the operational needs of FSI for many decades to come. It will be equipped to a very high standard with Chemistry, Drugs, Ballistics and DNA analysis laboratories and related technical areas, with the capacity to process all cases submitted for forensic analysis. 
There will be enhanced facilities for staff, professionals and others involved in providing a scientific service to An Garda Síochána. The site allows for expansion of the facility in accordance with the future development in the area of forensic science and will also facilitate the FSI merger with the Garda Technical Bureau, which is part of the current reform programme within An Garda Síochána.
Last July, the Government approved my proposals for a Five Year Reform and High Level Workforce Plan for An Garda Síochána. This Plan is based on the recommendations in the Garda Inspectorate Report 'Changing Policing in Ireland' which examined all aspects of the administration of An Garda Siochána. As well as the merger of the FSI and GTB bodies, notable other reforms to be implemented is the adoption of a functional model of policing at Divisional level along the lines recommended by the Inspectorate and increased civilianisation. The Commissioner’s Modernisation and Renewal Programme 2016-2021 is the vehicle for implementation of the agreed recommendations in the Inspectorate Report directed at An Garda Síochána.
 Both I and the Government are committed to ensuring that An Garda Síochána continue to provide a modern, efficient and accountable policing service and I have every confidence that the Modernisation and Renewal Programme will make a significant contribution to that.  
The new premises will also house the DNA database, which constitutes a major intelligence resource for the investigation of crime.  The Database is being populated with unidentified DNA profiles from crime scenes which can then be matched with DNA profiles uploaded from individuals under criminal investigation, with a view to solving these crimes and securing convictions.  To date, the number of person samples added since the establishment of the database is over 11,000 and approximately 532 investigative links between people and unsolved crimes have been uncovered. 
Today would not be possible without the cooperation and focussed effort of the FSI’s Director Sheila Willis and the wider FSI team. I would like to thank her and the team for their vision, their hard work throughout the planning phase of this project. I would also like to acknowledge the hard work of OPW staff, in particular the members associated with the progress of the project to date. 
May I also take this opportunity to offer my congratulations to Sheila on her upcoming retirement.  FSI has been fortunate to have her expertise, work ethic and commitment for the past 38 years, with 15 of those years as Director. Sheila has left a remarkable legacy behind and one that will remain with FSI for years to come. I am extremely grateful for the role that she has played and wish her all the best in her retirement and the many opportunities that it has to offer.  
It has been a pleasure to come to the Backweston campus today to mark the commencement of the new FSI laboratory works on what will be a very significant and critical project in the investigation and prosecution of criminal offences.
 I am sure that you will all join me in wishing everybody associated with this project every success.
Thank you.