74. Deputy Peter Fitzpatrick asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to increase the number of civilians in An Garda Síochána to more than 500 to address the capacity and critical skills gap across the organisation; and his further plans over the next number of years to address this skills gap. [5684/18]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): As the Deputy will be aware in accordance with section 26(1)(b) of the Garda Síochána Act 2005 as amended, the Garda Commissioner has statutory responsibility for the recruitment of civilian staff and I, as Minister, have no role in the matter. Section 19 of the Act governs the sanctioning of additional civilian staff for An Garda Síochána and requires the approval of the Policing Authority subject to my consent and that of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform.
The Deputy will be aware that as part of the Five Year Reform and High-level Workforce Plan for An Garda Síochána, the Government has agreed an overall vision for a Garda workforce of 21,000 personnel by 2021 to include 15,000 Garda members, 2,000 Garda Reserve members and 4,000 civilians. The projected 4,000 civilians represents a medium-term target of 20% of the Garda full-time workforce comprised of civilians. This target will be achieved through a twin-track approach of firstly, a “civilian by default” policy to be adopted in relation to the filling of all new posts other than operational policing posts and for non-operational policing posts that become vacant and, secondly, the redeployment of Gardaí to policing roles where their skills can be used to best effect with the backfilling of these roles by suitably qualified civilians where necessary. The Garda Inspectorate identified some 1,500 posts held by Gardaí that could be examined for suitability for civilian staff.
Progress is being made in relation to civilianisation. During 2017 some 200 new civilian posts were sanctioned by the Policing Authority with the consent of my Department and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. The bulk were to address critical skills gaps and capacity issues with a proportion sanctioned to make a start on the redeployment of Gardaí to policing duties. Of particular significance is that a number of civilians have been appointed to newly created senior leadership posts at Executive Director level to take responsibility for Strategy and Transformation and Legal and Compliance. It is also expected that a Chief Data Officer will be appointed shortly. These newly created leadership posts support the major reform programme underway within An Garda Síochána and will assist in bringing diverse perspectives and management skills to the top levels in the organisation.
To ensure that progress on civilianisation continues this year Budget 2018 has provided funding for a further 500 civilian staff. Civilianisation is a key element of the reform programme that is being pursued by An Garda Síochána. It will not be done overnight but progress on achieving the target of 20% implementation must continue and, indeed, must move at a greater pace. I intend to meet with the Commissioner shortly in relation to the reform programme generally with a particular focus on measures to accelerate the civilianisation agenda.
I am informed by the Commissioner that there were 2,192 civilians undertaking administrative and technical duties within An Garda Síochána as of 31 December 2017. I am encouraged that the number of civilians working in An Garda Síochána continues to increase with the numbers for 2017 showing more civilians working in the organisation than in each of the previous seven years.