356. Deputy Fergus O'Dowd asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the position regarding the taking away of resources from the local Garda Síochána in Drogheda in County Louth, as stated by the local Garda superintendent (details supplied), and the urgent need to reverse this decision immediately in order to give An Garda Síochána the extra resources it requires, particularly the need to have more foot patrols in the town and in its environs; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42931/15]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): As the Deputy will appreciate, the Garda Commissioner is responsible for the distribution of personnel, among the Garda Regions, Divisions, and Districts.
I have been informed by the Garda Commissioner that the personnel strength of Gardai assigned to County Louth Garda Division on the 31 October 2015, the latest dates for which figures are readily available are 281 of which 104 are assigned to the Drogheda Garda District. There are also 42 Garda Reserves and 23 Civilians attached to the Louth Garda Division.
I have also been informed by the Garda Commissioner that the allocations of Gardaí is continually monitored to ensure optimal use of Garda human resources. This process is periodically reviewed in light of particular incidents of concern or challenges and it is in this context that the Commissioner has directed the allocation of additional Gardaí to the Louth Division. I am advised that an additional 2 sergeants and 25 Gardaí have been allocated to the Louth Garda Division as an interim measure. These Gardaí have been transferred on a temporary basis from adjoining Garda Divisions and the Dublin Metropolitan Region to support the work of the members of An Garda Síochána assigned to the Louth Division.
This Government is committed to ensuring that An Garda Síochána has the capacity to provide effective, visible policing throughout the country. A crucial element of the Government's strategy is ongoing seamless recruitment to renew An Garda Síochána. With this in mind Budget 2016 made provision for the recruitment of 600 new Gardaí next year bringing to 1,150 the number of new Gardaí that will be recruited since the reopening of the Garda College in Templemore in September 2014. So far 295 of those new recruits are fully attested and are on the ground in communities nationwide. On attestation, new probationer Gardaí are assigned to stations throughout the country by the Garda Commissioner, where they are assigned to mainstream uniform policing duties. I am assured by Garda management that the needs of all Garda Divisions are fully considered when determining the allocation of newly attested Gardaí and that 10 of these newly attested Gardaí have been assigned to Co Louth Garda Division, 5 each to Dundalk and Drogheda Garda Stations.
I was very pleased to announce the commencement of the recruitment campaign for 2016 last Friday, 27 November. It is being organised by the Public Appointments Service on behalf of the Garda Commissioner. Applications must be made through www.publicjobs.ie. The closing date for applications is Tuesday 5 January 2016. Successful candidates can expect to enter the Garda College from June 2016 onwards.
In relation to the crime of burglary, Operation Thor is a multi-strand, national operation which builds on previous and current Garda operations to tackle crime, particularly burglaries, the number of which, as we know, increase with the advent of the long winter nights, in both urban and rural communities nationwide. In excess of €5 million is being committed to support Operation Thor. This allocation, which includes funding for Garda overtime will support abroad range of activities to tackle burglars, organised crime gangs and prolific offenders as well as working with communities to prevent crime. These activities include: additional high-visibility patrols in identified burglary hot-spots; increased use of checkpoints to tackle the criminal gangs using the national road network; the use of new high powered vehicles by the armed Regional Response Units; efforts to disrupt the stolen goods market; programmes to help reduce re-offending by prolific offenders; a high-profile national crime prevention awareness campaign, and targeted crime prevention advice for local communities and enhanced supports for victims.
This special, targeted operation has to be seen in the context of the major investment that this Government is making in An Garda Síochána including over €34 million in new Garda vehicles since 2012 with over 640 new vehicles coming on stream in 2015, ranging from more Garda patrol cars to high-powered vehicles for armed units. The Government's Capital Plan 2016-2021 provides for a further €46 million of investment in vehicles as well as an additional €200 million for Information and Communications Technology which will allow An Garda Síochána to deploy the latest cutting edge technologies in the fight against crime. We are also investing in airborne surveillance. Taken together, this step-change in investment in policing will ensure that the Gardaí can be mobile, visible and responsive, on the roads and in the community.