102. Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if she will review the decision to close 139 Garda Síochána stations in recent years, given that the savings are only around €4,000 per station per year. [42458/15]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): The formulation of proposals in relation to the opening and closing of Garda stations is a matter, in the first instance, for the Garda Commissioner in the context of annual policing plans, as provided for in section 22 of the Garda Síochána Act 2005.
The Garda District and Station Rationalisation Programme was implemented in An Garda Síochána during 2012 and 2013. The direct savings from the Programme as highlighted by the Deputy are modest. However, it is important to recall that the primary objective of the Programme was to identify opportunities to introduce strategic reforms to enhance service delivery, increase efficiency and streamline practices within An Garda Síochána.
In its review of the Garda Station Network, Garda management concluded in relation to certain stations, resources could be better deployed and more effectively used on the front line if those stations no longer had to be staffed and maintained. In reaching these conclusions, Garda management reviewed all aspects of the Garda Síochána policing model, including the deployment of personnel, the utilisation of modern technologies and the overall operation of Garda stations.
The Programme supports the provision of a modern 21st century policing service for both urban and rural areas and allows front line Gardaí to be managed and deployed with greater mobility, greater flexibility, and in a more focused fashion, particularly with regard to various targeted police operations. As a result of the Programme, communities have benefited from increased Garda visibility and increased patrolling hours which has enabled An Garda Síochána to deliver an improved policing service to the public.
In tandem with the rationalisation of stations, efforts have been directed towards ensuring that An Garda Síochána has the resources to deliver highly-mobile and responsive Garda patrols in both rural and urban communities. In renewing the Garda fleet to support front line Garda responses over 640 new vehicles are coming on stream since the start of 2015. So far this year 370 new vehicles have come on stream including new specialised vehicles with a further 260 vehicles between now and the end of the year. This investment will provide the Gardaí with additional high powered vehicles, marked and unmarked patrol cars, cars for surveillance and covert operations, motor cycles for high visibility road policing and vehicles for public order policing. This investment in a modern, effective and fit-for-purpose Garda fleet will continue under the Government’s Capital Plan 2016-2021 which provides an additional €46 million for new Garda vehicles over the life time of the Plan. The increased budget allocation for 2016 will also facilitate additional funding for Garda surveillance, special operations and targeted, intelligence-led policing.
This substantial level of investment will be accompanied by the continued renewal of Garda personnel with 600 new Garda to be recruited next year on top of the 550 to be recruited by the end of this year. As the Deputy will be aware, I recently announced the commencement of the 2016 recruitment campaign for new members of An Garda Síochána. It underscores the Government’s commitment to seamless ongoing recruitment to An Garda Síochána to ensure that the Service is renewed and has the capacity to provide effective policing services throughout the country. The 600 new Gardaí to be recruited next year will bring to 1,150 the total number of new recruits since the reopening of the Garda College in September 2014. So far 295 of these recruits have attested as members of An Garda Síochána and are on the ground in communities nationwide.
The totality of this investment will ensure that Gardaí have the necessary tools and manpower to tackle the scourge of highly-mobile criminal gangs and to disrupt crime, particularly burglaries, across our communities.