121. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Justice and Equality her plans to address issues raised with regard to armed resources within An Garda Síochána (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8953/16]


Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): As the Deputy will appreciate the deployment of the Garda personnel and resources is a matter for the Garda Commissioner. The balance between armed and unarmed members of the organisation, is of course, kept under review in the light of emerging challenges. In this regard, at the request of the Commissioner earlier this year, the Government moved decisively to strengthen the resources available to An Garda Síochána to deal with gang related crime in the Dublin area through a special allocation of €5 million to support the establishment of a dedicated Armed Support Unit in Dublin amongst other measures. Work is progressing as a matter of priority on the establishment of that unit.
As the Deputy may be aware, the Taoiseach and I recently met with senior Garda management and were briefed on the significant progress being made in investigations into recent gang-related murders in the Dublin region. As these appalling crimes are the subject of ongoing Garda investigations it would not be appropriate for me to make any more detailed comment at this time, however, I can assure the Deputy that I remain committed to ensuring that An Garda Síochána have the necessary resources to pursue the robust strategy which the Commissioner and her senior officers have put in place to oppose the violent thugs who have perpetrated such heinous crimes in our Capital City. The Garda response includes highly visible policing, the use of armed checkpoints and targeted and intelligence based operations, with a view to disrupting and preventing incidents as well as detecting and prosecuting those involved. These measures are in addition to the intensive Garda recruitment programme which is currently underway.
The recent investments in Garda resources are also supporting a wider countrywide drive against crime under Operation Thor and there will be ongoing support for anti-crime measures due to the very significant resources committed in the Capital Plan 2016-2021. This Plan includes an allocation of €46 million for new Garda vehicles to ensure that Gardaí can be mobile, visible and responsive on the roads and in the community. In addition, the Government is investing in enhanced Garda technology and ICT systems with an additional €205 million allocated for Garda ICT over the lifetime of the Plan.
I might add that heavy penalties are provided for weapons offences in our criminal law and mandatory minimum penalties have been introduced for certain firearms offences. The considerable powers already available to Gardaí have been supplemented further by the newly established DNA Database which will have the capacity to link suspects to unsolved crimes using forensic evidence, and will greatly assist Gardaí in investigating serious gun crimes and a whole range of other serious offences.
Needless to say there are enormous difficulties in counteracting those who are determined to perpetuate a cycle of mindless violence without any regard to human life of public safety. However, we should not lose sight of the fact that An Garda Síochána have in the past successfully faced-down gangs who believed they were above the law. I trust that all in this House will agree that the State must continue to take all appropriate measures to oppose and dismantle criminal gang networks and to disrupt the evil drugs trade which is at the heart of much of their activities.