The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Mr Brian Lenihan, T.D., today addressed a North/South Community Policing Programme at Boston College, Boston.

The Community Policing Programme, designed and delivered by the Irish Institute at the Boston College Centre for Irish Programs, has brought together policing professionals from both sides of the border to study and explore community policing strategies for more effective communication channels between law enforcement and the community.

The Programme’s participants comprise senior officers from An Garda Síochána and the PSNI, and representatives from civilian bodies including the Northern Ireland Policing Board, the Garda Síochána Ombudsman, the Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman and the Garda Síochána Inspectorate. Over the course of their study visit the participants are meeting with their counterparts from the Boston, Miami and Providence Police Departments, and also various community organisations.

Speaking to the participants at Boston College, Minister Lenihan said, "I am confident that the skills, contacts and networks you have developed in the course of this programme will be of great value to you, your organisations and the people you serve. 

The Minister spoke about enhanced cooperation between An Garda Síochána and the PSNI: "I welcome North/South cooperation in the field of law enforcement.  My Northern Ireland office counterpart, Minister Goggins, and I keep in regular contact and do everything in our power to encourage greater cooperation.  In particular, relations between the Police Service of Northern Ireland and the Garda Síochána have never been better.

We are all aware of the historic achievements in the North, with the establishment of an Executive representative of all the parties.  Perhaps the last great step that has to be taken is the devolution of policing and justice powers to the institutions in the North.  I believe - as does the British Government - that this is a step which will be in the interests of all the people in the North.  Both Governments look forward to this happening as quickly as possible."

Minister Lenihan also spoke about community policing in the South of Ireland: "An Garda Síochána is committed to community policing as the heart of policing in Ireland and that this is exemplified by the Gardaí being a routinely unarmed Force.  It has to permeate the entire policing service from top to bottom.

A key element in successful community policing is partnership, and I have made clear since my appointment as Minister the value I place on it.  I believe that one of the most significant innovations of the milestone legislation which is the Garda Síochána Act 2005 is the introduction of Joint Policing Committees. These Committees, which will be rolled out to all local authority areas this year, have great potential to ensure that policing is responsive to local needs. 

The demand for greater Garda visibility within communities is a recurring one made by the public.  The unprecedented increase in Garda numbers over the past few years and which continues at pace is helping to increase Garda visibility in the community.  The importance to police forces of building strong relationships on the ground by maintaining such a high visible presence cannot be overstated." 

The Minister also referred to a current examination of community policing structures in An Garda Síochána. He said, "An Garda Síochána is considering how to increase further the profile and effectiveness of community policing within the organisation.  A working group has been established by the Garda Commissioner with a view to developing a comprehensive model of community policing.  Last year submissions were invited from the public and from voluntary and statutory agencies for consideration in developing the new model.  The final report of the working group is currently under consideration by the Garda authorities."

17 March 2008

Note for Editors

The Irish Institute at the Boston College Centre for Irish Programs supports the peace and reconciliation process through the provision of educational seminars and programmes for public officials, business leaders and academics from Ireland and Northern Ireland. Their work is funded by a major grant from the US Department of State. More than 700 leaders from all communities, and from all levels of government, policing, business, education, media and the non-profit sector have travelled to the US to participate in the Institute’s programmes.