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Question

129. Deputy Fergus O'Dowd asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his views on correspondence (details supplied) from the Cooley Peninsula community alert groups; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [43232/15]

Answer

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.
The overall number of personnel available to the Garda Commissioner is close to 16,000. This figure comprises 12,866 members, 978 reserve members, and 2,012 civilians as of 31 October.
This Government is committed to ensuring that An Garda Síochána has the capacity to provide effective, visible policing throughout the country. The number of Gardaí is crucial to this but, also of importance, is ensuring that the overall composition of the Garda workforce achieves the right balance between highly trained Gardaí and professional, skilled civilian staff, and that the Service harnesses the energy and skills of volunteers through the Garda Reserve.
The optimal number of members of An Garda Síochána is a factor of a number of different considerations, including population size and composition, crime trends, the level of civilianisation, etc. Having said that, the Government is committed to on-going seamless recruitment into the future and as the Deputy will be aware, provision has been made in Budget 2016 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. It is expected that a further 395 will attest by the end of 2016 which, taking account of projected retirements, will bring Garda numbers to around the 13,000 mark. I expect recruitment to continue at or around the current levels for the next number of years having regard to factors such as the level of retirements in any one year.
In relation to civilian staff of An Garda Síochána, they are employed in a wide range of management, administrative, technical and operational roles where they make an invaluable contribution to the delivery of effective policing services throughout the country. The increased budget allocation for An Garda Síochána in 2016, in addition to providing for the recruitment of 600 new Gardaí, provides for the recruitment of additional civilian experts, in particular to develop the Garda ICT investment programme. Having regard to international experience, I believe that there is undoubtedly value in exploring the opportunities for increasing the ratio of civilians to Gardaí, and for releasing Gardaí from administrative and other positions to front-line duties. The process which is currently ongoing to civilianise border control functions at Dublin airport and the transfer of these responsibilities from An Garda Síochána to the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) of my Department is an excellent example of this. Further work in this area will be progressed in conjunction with the Garda Commissioner in the context of the report of the Garda Inspectorate of its review under the Haddington Road Agreement. The terms of reference of that review include all aspects of the operation and administration of An Garda Síochána including the structure, organisation and staffing of An Garda Síochána and the deployment of members and civilian staff to relevant and appropriate roles.
In relation to the County Louth Division, I have been informed by the Garda Commissioner that the number of Gardaí on the 31 October 2015, the latest dates for which figures are readily available, is 281 (including 10 newly attested Gardaí) of which 104 are assigned to the Drogheda Garda District. There are also 42 Garda Reserves and 23 Civilians attached to that 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 an additional 27 Gardaí, including two Sergeants, to the Louth Division as an interim measure. These Gardaí are being transferred on a temporary basis to support the work of the 283 members of An Garda Síochána assigned to the Louth Division.
I am further informed that the work of local Gardaí in the Louth Division is augmented by a number of Garda national units which are assisting with covert and overt operations targeting prolific criminals and dissidents who reside within and outside this jurisdiction. The Emergency Response Unit is actively deployed in the Division and is providing a presence in the vicinity of checkpoints which are being carried out by uniform personnel. Furthermore there is ongoing liaison between An Garda Síochána and the Police Service of Northern Ireland under the auspices of an agreed Cross-Border Policing Strategy to continue the excellent levels of cooperation between both police services in addressing crime and terrorist activities in all its manifestations
In addition to investing in renewing An Garda Síochána, the Government has have invested 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. So far this year the Louth Division has been allocated 12 new Garda cars as a result of this increased investment. 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.