260. Deputy Peter Fitzpatrick asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to increase the number of new Garda recruits in An Garda Síochána to more than 800 per year over the next number of years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5715/18]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): As the Deputy will appreciate, the Garda Commissioner is responsible for the distribution of resources, including personnel, among the various Garda Divisions and I, as Minister, have no direct role in the matter. Garda management keeps this distribution of resources under continual review in the context of crime trends and policing priorities so as to ensure that the optimum use is made of these resources.
As the Deputy will be aware this Government is committed to ensuring a strong and visible police presence throughout the country in order to maintain and strengthen community engagement, provide reassurance to citizens and to deter crime. To achieve this the Government has put in place a plan for an overall Garda workforce of 21,000 personnel by 2021 comprising 15,000 Garda members, 2,000 Reserve members and 4,000 civilians. We are making real, tangible progress on achieving this goal.
Taking account of projected retirements, reaching a strength of 15,000 by 2021 will require some 1,600 new Garda members to be recruited on a phased basis over the next two years in addition to the 2,800 that will have been recruited by the end of this year since the re-opening of the Garda College in September 2014. The number of planned new Garda members to be recruited each year is kept under constant review taking account of retirements to ensure a strength of 15,000 will be a achieved by 2021 and will be adjusted accordingly if necessary.
In considering the number of new Garda members to be recruited it is, of course, essential to ensure that An Garda Síochána has the capacity to train them without any diminution in the quality of its training programme, and to provide appropriate supervision and support to newly qualified Gardaí to ensure that victims, and the public generally, are well served by their policing service.
I am informed by the Commissioner that since the reopening of the Garda College in September 2014, just under 1,600 recruits have attested as members of An Garda Síochána and have been assigned to mainstream duties nationwide. I am pleased to say that Garda numbers, taking account of retirements, increased to 13,551 at the end of 2017 - a net increase of over 600 since the end of 2016.
I am also pleased that funding is in place to maintain this high level of investment in the Garda workforce to ensure that the vision of an overall workforce of 21,000 by 2021 remains on track. This year a further 800 new Garda Recruits will enter the Garda College. Also 800 Garda trainees are scheduled to attest during the year which will see Garda numbers, taking account of projected retirements, reach 14,000 by the end of 2018.
In addition, a further 500 civilians will also be recruited to fill critical skills gaps across the organisation and to facilitate the redeployment of Gardaí from administrative and technical duties to front-line operational duties. There are plans to strengthen the Garda Reserve with new Reserves expected to commence training in 2018.
This focus on investment in personnel is critical. The moratorium on recruitment introduced in 2010 resulted in a significant reduction in the strength of An Garda Síochána. We are now rebuilding the organisation and providing the Commissioner with the resources needed to deploy increasing numbers of Gardaí across every Garda Division, in the coming years.