Speaking on the publication of the 2009 Estimates, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Mr. Dermot Ahern T.D., said the major focus and challenge for 2009 will be to maintain frontline services in the Justice area.
The Minister said: "Tackling crime will be my top priority for 2009 and the Estimates package for my Department and particularly An Garda Síochána reflect the seriousness of our intent – notwithstanding the changed economic circumstances."
"As a Government we are signalling very clearly that policing, crime prevention and tackling crime are priority items in the Justice area in 2009. Funding follows the priorities; that means of course that some Justice agencies will have significantly reduced budgets in 2009. However they will retain funding for their core activities."
Garda Recruitment to continue in 2009
• The attested strength of An Garda Síochána to increase to almost 14,900 by the end of 2009 from its current attested strength of 14,267. In addition to the almost 1,100 recruits currently in training, four hundred new recruits will be taken on during 2009.
"In circumstances where numbers are being significantly reduced throughout the public sector, maintaining Garda strength is a key indicator of the government resolve to make our country a safer place", the Minister stated. The Minister went on to say that the easy option would have been to maintain overtime spending at a very high level and to cease recruiting. The Minister said that the Gardaí will have a substantial overtime budget of €80m which is down from this year’s budget of €108m. However, the increase in the number of Gardaí, together with the flexibility that overtime gives to the Force, will ensure delivery of a sustainable and real increase in visible policing for all our communities. The increase in Garda numbers in 2009 will more than offset the planned reduction in overtime.
• A ringfenced allocation of €21m will enable Operation Anvil to be continued in 2009 with targeted disruption of serious and organised criminal activity.
Criminal Assets Bureau
• A 20% (or €1.5m) increase in funding for CAB.
• €18m funding package for new state-of-the-art Forensic Science facilities and State Pathology Laboratory. In particular this will enable the work on DNA database to proceed once the new legislation is in place.
• €49m provided for Garda ICT and Communications capital projects.
Outsourced Speed Cameras
• €10m provided for outsourcing of Speed/Safety Cameras in line with the Road Safety Strategy.
• €40m for Prisons Building Programme including enhanced security measures in the country’s Prisons.
• €33m for Courthouse capital work and IT projects.
Agency Efficiency Dividend
• €11m in savings across 20 Justice and Equality bodies as a result of efficiencies and elimination of non-priority spending items.
• From the start of this year to the end of 2009, the attested strength of the Force will have grown by over 1,100. This is an 8% increase in the size of the Force.
• Budgetary constraints mean that there will need to be a reduction in Garda overtime next year. However, the additional rostered hours available next year arising from the increase in the strength of the Force amount to over 1 million hours. This will more than offset the planned reduction in overtime hours.
• In addition to the increase in attested strength, civilian numbers in An Garda Síochána have increased to 2,038 representing a 20% increase in these resources available to the Garda Commissioner since the start of this year alone. This follows on from a 32% increase in the number of civilian employees from 1 January 2007 to 31 December 2007 – from 1,282 to 1,687. In total, over the past 21 months, the number of civilians employed in An Garda Síochána has increased by 59%.
• The ICT budget provides for the continued maintenance and enhancement of Garda systems including a new Major Investigations system which is a key support in the fight against crime.
• Funding has also been provided for the roll-out of the National Digital Radio Service which will ensure that Garda members throughout the country have secure leading edge communications technology available to them.
• €10m has been set aside for the provision of an outsourced speed camera network as part of the Governments strategy to reduce fatalities on our roads.
• €460m provided across 60 subheads in the Justice Vote.
• Major review of all Bodies under the aegis of the Department underway to identify efficiencies and savings. As a first step reduction of €11m in budgets of a number of these organisations in 2009.
• €12m provided for the commencement of a major redevelopment of the Oberstown complex for young offenders in Finglas by the Youth Justice Service
• €8m provided for the development a modern, well equipped State Pathology Laboratory in a joint venture with Dublin City Council
• 20% increase in funding for the Criminal Assets Bureau to continue the important work of the Bureau in relieving criminals of the proceeds of crime for the benefit of the State.
• Almost €2m increase in the resources of the Forensic Science Laboratory to assist other State organisations including An Garda Síochána in the on-going fight against serious crime.
• Funding for the Probation Service and Irish Youth Justice Service, both of which have seen major expansion in recent years maintained at over €113m.
• By maintaining an allocation of over €52m for Prisons Buildings and Equipment Minister is reflecting Government’s commitment to increasing the number of Prisons places and implementing increased security measures in the nation’s prisons.
• Funding has been provided to complete and fit out 64 cell remand unit at Castlerea prison comprising 52 double cells and 12 special category cells divided between segregation and special observation cells.
• New Prison blocks in Portlaoise and Wheatfield will be completed in 2009 which will accommodate up to 150 offenders in each location. The Portlaoise accommodation also includes a new reception area, medical suite, education and recreation areas.
• Use of new security search and mobile phone blocking systems will be extended in 2009.
• There has been significant investment in the Courts infrastructure in recent years. A major Courthouse building programme has been undertaken and the Minister is pleased that a further €23.5m has been provided for the continuation of this programme in 2009.
• Major Courthouse works will take place in Kilkenny, Monaghan, Gorey, Kilmallock and Cork Circuit Court in 2009.
• The Public Private Partnership contract for the Criminal Courts Complex is proceeding to schedule. The operational date is planned for early 2010.
Property Registration Authority
• €5m has been provided in 2009 for the completion of the Digital Mapping project which will see a further 8 counties completed in 2009. Digitisation of maps for the remaining 3 counties will be completed in 2010.
14 October 2008