CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY

 

Address by the Minister for Justice and Equality, Charles Flanagan TD at the Garda Passing Out Parade Garda College, Templemore  

Friday 15 June 2018

 

Commissioner, distinguished guests, and of course, new members of An Garda Síochána.

 

I am delighted to be here in Templemore for this special occasion. It is an important day for you, your family and your friends, and it is an important day too, for the State.

 

For you, it’s a day of celebration,  the successful completion of 32 weeks of rigorous training.  It’s a major milestone in your lives, marking the beginning of what I hope will be a long and rewarding policing career in An Garda Síochána.

 

And for the State, it’s significant because we welcome 198 new members to the service. As I have said, many times before, I admire the work of An Garda Síochána. Throughout my life in politics and especially as Minister for Justice and Equality, I have been fully aware of the valuable work Gardai do, the uncountable daily successes, many of which go unnoticed, and the very real daily risks that members face on our behalf.

 

To answer the call to public service to support the mission of An Garda to protect and serve is truly commendable and I thank each and every one of you.

 

You are a part of a new generation in An Garda Síochána.  A new generation to which falls a huge opportunity to embrace and influence.

 

I say that because you really are entering the service at a pivotal time in its history.  This is a time of major reform and investment which will redefine An Garda Siochana as an organisation.  And yes, reform can be challenging - but it also presents opportunities….opportunities to do things differently, to do things better, to reinvigorate an organisation and harness the talents and energy of its people.

 

I believe the reform programme which is underway will deliver a professional, modern, open policing service.  And I believe it will do that while retaining its core  - deep roots in community, and trust and respect from the public it serves.  So I encourage you all to grasp the opportunity presented to you by that reform programme, and I ask each and every one of you to do everything you can to play your part in making An Garda Síochána an organisation of which you are proud to be a part.  I ask you to take on that challenge and I have no doubt but that you will rise to it.

 

Alongside the ongoing reform programme, we also of course have the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland.  It is examining every aspect of policing here in a very fundamental way. Indeed the significance of its work cannot be overstated. The Commission is comprised of national and international experts and is chaired by Kathleen O’Toole, a highly respected police officer who understands the challenges facing police at the front line after a distinguished career in the Boston Police Department and more recently in Seattle. I met with the Chairperson of the Commission earlier this week and it is clear that a huge amount of work has been undertaken and that the proposals, when they are published in September, will set out an ambitious blueprint to ensure that An Garda Síochána will be a model of policing excellence, equipped to deal with the huge range of tasks that face modern police services.  The scale of work undertaken by An Garda Síochána today is impressive; you will be familiar with a lot of it by now.  But I have to say I don’t believe the communities that you serve and protect are always aware of the gamut that ranges from traffic policing to counterterrorism; from tackling cybercrime to tackling drug smugglers; from community policing to the Fraud Squad.  All of this work is worthwhile, much of it exciting, all of it hugely valuable.  You are joining this organisation at a very exciting time and all of you can if you work hard have hugely successful careers in An Garda Síochána.  

 

We are on the cusp of a momentous decade for An Garda Síochána.  The results of the independent Cultural Audit of An Garda Síochána published by the Commissioner last month reveal a heartening appetite for real change among your future colleagues. That over 6,500 personnel – members, reserves and civilians – contributed their views is a strong signal in itself of the desire to make things better. The Audit is the first of its kind undertaken by An Garda Síochána and is of major significance in the context of the reform programme underway.

 

I welcome the positives in the report including, in particular, the pride in the central role An Garda Síochána plays in protecting and supporting communities, the value personnel place on using police powers appropriately and acting with integrity and honesty; and the esprit de corps.

 

Of course the Audit also highlights challenges - in areas such as speaking up; supervision, promotions, leadership and resources. I know Commissioner Ó Cualáin views the Audit as a valuable resource in terms of informing how the organisation can best support its people and in turn transform the service to the public.

 

In referring to Commissioner Ó Cualáin I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge his commitment, dedication and service. The process of selecting a new commissioner is well underway and for the first time is being overseen by the Policing Authority. At a time of significant growth and reform the role of Commissioner will be extremely challenging which is why the Government decided that the competition would be an open, international competition with the successful candidate tested against the strong field possible. The new Commissioner, who will be in place in the Autumn will lead and implement the reform agenda while simultaneously ensuring the security of the State and the safety of its citizens.

 

All of you have joined An Garda Síochána to protect the public and fight crime.  You can be assured of mine, and the Government’ support in ensuring that you have the people and the resources to do that effectively. You as new Gardaí are visible proof of the Government’s commitment to a well-resourced An Garda Síochána. You bring to almost 2,000 the number of trainees who have become members since the reopening of the Garda College in September 2014. This year, in total, 800 trainees will attest as new members bringing Garda numbers at year end to 14,000.  This is real progress on the road to realising the goal of 15,000 members by 2021.

 

The recent recruitment campaign undertaken by the Public Appointments Service on behalf of the Commissioner attracted well over 6,000 applications. This strong response testifies to a career in An Garda Síochána continuing to be an attractive and rewarding profession.

 

When I speak of investment in people I am referring to the full spectrum of the Garda workforce - Gardaí, civilian staff and Reserve members. The best modern police services are those with an integrated workforce, where policing professionals and civilian staff work hand in hand, where their respective skills and expertise are equally recognised and valued, and which harness the energy and enthusiasm of local volunteers.

 

This is the vision that the Government has for An Garda Síochána, a vision of an overall workforce of 21,000 by 2021 comprised of 15,000 Gardaí, 4,000 civilians and 2,000 Reserves.

 

In support of this overall vision over 290 new civilian staff have been sanctioned in the last 18 months to fill critical skills gaps across the organisation and to facilitate the continuing redeployment of Gardaí from desk duties to policing duties where their training can be used to best effect. So far over 100 Gardaí have been redeployed to policing. This is a welcome start but there is a lot more work to be done to full realise the full scope for redeployment of Gardaí and bring diverse experience and skills to the organisation. I know the Commissioner has a dedicated project team in place to drive the redeployment programme and ensure that it is done in a manner that is fair to all.

 

There are also plans to strengthen the Garda Reserve with new Reserves expected to commence training this year. I note that a number of you were Reserve members. I hope that the Reserve, following the completion of the strategic review that is underway, will become a conduit of experienced, dedicated volunteers for more full time membership.

 

All of this investment in building up the Garda workforce will mean more support for Gardaí on the frontline.

 

It goes without saying that an investment in personnel must be accompanied by an investment in critical infrastructure and equipment, including the Garda fleet, ICT, and modern buildings. The Government has allocated very significant resources in the order of €1.65 Billion to An Garda Síochána for 2018 and it is essential that those resources continue to be deployed effectively.

 

Beyond resources, effective policing requires that each of you through your actions gain the confidence and trust of the people you serve.  As members of An Garda Síochána you have extraordinary powers coupled tremendous responsibility. No matter the circumstances you will be expected to perform your duties to the highest standards of conduct, often under the public gaze.

 

I want to return to the solemn declaration that you made this morning. It is I believe worth reciting the declaration in full: “I will faithfully discharge the duties of a member of the Garda Síochána with fairness, integrity, regard for human rights, diligence and impartiality, upholding the Constitution and law and according equal respect to all people.” Never forget those words. Let them guide your every interaction with those whom you serve. In this you will have the Code of Ethics published by the Policing Authority to support you. This morning you signed a form acknowledging that you have read and understood the Code, and declared you commitment to upholding its standards. I ask that you live by this commitment as you go out to serve your new communities.

 

To conclude, you are conscious no doubt that the road you have chosen is a challenging one but also a rewarding one.  You will play a vital role in ensuring the well-being of every citizen and society as whole. There is great energy here today and I know that each of you individually is going to make a huge contribution to the public good.

 

I wish you the best of luck and wisdom in your careers. I hope you all have an enjoyable day celebrating your success with your family and friends. It is well-deserved.  I look forward to working with you, as Minister, to protect and serve the people of Ireland.

 

Thank you.