CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY

Topical Issue Debate

 

18 October 2017

 

In the light of the number of burglaries recently in the Offaly area, to ask the Minister for Justice if he is satisfied with the complement of Gardaí across the Laois/Offaly Garda division

 

Deputy Marcella Corcoran Kennedy

 

I would like to thank the Deputy for raising this matter.

 

I want to assure the Deputy that I am very much aware of the impact of crime on rural communities, including the serious damage done by organised gangs who target rural areas to engage in burglary and other property crime.  As the Deputy is aware, Operation Thor entails a broad range of activities to tackle organised crime gangs and other prolific offenders as well as working with communities to prevent crime.

 

Since its inception in November 2015, there has been concentrated activity under Operation Thor which is reflected in the implementation of over 83,260 targeted checkpoints nationwide and 28,630 searches carried out.  There have also been in the region of 5,541 arrests and 6,156 charges covering a range of offences which, in addition to burglary, have included handling stolen property, possession of firearms and drugs offences.  It is also encouraging to note that burglary figures in particular have shown a significant downward trend. The CSO official recorded crime statistics for Q4 of 2016 show a 30% decrease in burglary for the twelve months of 2016 when compared to the same period in 2015 - which parallels the implementation of Operation Thor. Furthermore, you will note that in relation to burglaries, the decrease in the Laois/Offaly Division for this period is 7% higher than the national average with a decrease in burglary of 37%.  I want to complement the Gardaí in Laois/Offaly on this success.

 

This Government is committed to ensuring a strong and visible police presence throughout the country in order to maintain and strengthen community engagement, provide reassurance to citizens and deter crime.  To make this a reality for all, the Government has in place a plan to achieve an overall Garda workforce of 21,000 personnel by 2021 comprising 15,000 Garda members, 2,000 Reserve members and 4,000 civilians. As the Deputy will appreciate, the Garda Commissioner is responsible for the distribution of resources, including personnel, among the various Garda Divisions and I, as Minister, have no direct role in the matter.  I am informed by the Commissioner that the Garda strength of the Laois/Offaly Division, on 31 August 2017, the latest date for which figures are readily available, was 325. There are also 17 Garda Reserves and 24 civilians attached to the Division. When appropriate, the work of local Gardaí is supported by a number of Garda national units such as the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau and the Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau.

 

I am further informed by the Commissioner that since the reopening of the Garda College in September 2014, close to 1,400 recruits have attested as members of An Garda Síochána and have been assigned to mainstream duties nationwide, 66 of whom have been assigned to the Laois/Offaly Division. In addition, another 200 trainee Garda are scheduled to attest later this year which will see Garda numbers, taking account of projected retirements, increase to around the 13,500 mark by year end - an increase of 500 since the end of 2016.    I am pleased to say that Budget 2018 will support the continuation of this high level of investment in the Garda workforce and ensure that the vision of an overall workforce of 21,000 by 2021 remains on track.

 

In 2018, a further 800 new Garda Recruits will enter the Garda College, an additional 500 civilians will also be recruited to fill critical skills gaps across the organisation and to facilitate the redeployment of Gardaí from administrative and technical duties to front-line operational duties. There are plans to strengthen the Garda Reserve with new Reserves expected to commence training early in 2018.

 

This focus on investment in personnel is critical. The moratorium on recruitment introduced in 2010 resulted in a significant reduction in the strength of An Garda Síochána.  We are now rebuilding the organisation and providing the Commissioner with the resources needed to deploy increasing numbers of Gardaí across every Garda Division, including the Laois Offaly Division, in the coming years.