92. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he has satisfied himself that An Garda Síochána has enough resources and overtime to de-escalate the ongoing gangland feud in Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5414/18]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): The Deputy will be aware that the allocation and management of Garda resources, including the overtime budget, is the responsibility of the Garda Commissioner having due regard to his operational needs. As Minister, I have no role in the matter.
I would, however, point out that some €1.65 billion has been allocated to the Garda Vote for 2018. This is an increase of approximately 2% over the allocation for 2017 and includes some €98.5 million for Garda overtime. Some €1.61 billion was allocated to the Garda Vote for 2017 which, in itself, was an increase of approximately €60 million over the allocation for 2016 (€1.55 billion as per the 2016 Revised Estimates Version) and included approximately €88.5 million for Garda overtime. In November 2017, I secured a supplementary estimate of some €42 million for Garda overtime bringing the spend for 2017 to over €130 million. This compares to a spend in previous years of €91 million in 2016, €56 million in 2015 and some €37.7 million in 2014.
This Government continues to support An Garda Síochána with unprecedented levels of resources. For example, 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 and tangible progress on achieving this goal.
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 - an 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 early 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 Division.
Further, the Capital Plan 2016 – 2021 provides €46 million for investment in the Garda Fleet to ensure that An Garda Síochána has a modern, effective and fit for purpose fleet and this is in addition to the investment of almost €30 million in the period 2013 to 2015. In the period 2013 to end of 2017 almost €44 million will have been invested in the fleet with some 2,000 vehicles coming on stream in that period.
Some €342 million, including €217 million in additional funding under the Capital Plan, is being invested in Garda ICT infrastructure between 2016 and 2021 to enable An Garda Síochána to deploy the latest cutting edge technologies in delivering professional policing and security services for the community.
It is a matter for Garda management to utilise the resources being made available to them in the most efficient and effective manner to ensure high visibility policing in our communities, including to tackle gangland crime.
The Deputy will appreciate, of course, that increasing resources, of itself, will not defeat the scourge of gang-related and associated crime that currently obtains. Rather, a comprehensive range of measures is being put in place so that a cogent and coordinated response can be delivered, including:
- in addition to legislative measures targeting repeat burglars, namely the Criminal Justice (Burglary of Dwellings) Act 2015, other legislative measures are being introduced to tackle gang-related and associated crime; for example:
- the Government has enacted new legislation to further target criminal activities including the Proceeds of Crime (Amendment) Act 2016 which provides additional powers for Gardaí; in particular, powers to allow for the immediate seizure of assets suspected of being the proceeds of crime to prevent them being disposed of;
- the legislative framework for the lawful interception of communications and for covert electronic surveillance, to combat the threats from serious, organised crime and terrorism will be enhanced; and
- my officials and An Garda Síochána are keeping under review the legislation to see whether there are other changes in the law which might be made which might address the reality of groups intent on carrying out a sustained series of killings while endangering the safety of communities;
- a second Special Criminal Court has been established and has been hearing cases since last May;
- the new dedicated Armed Support Unit for the Dublin Metropolitan Region was launched on 14 December 2016, and is now operational on a 24/7 basis. The establishment of the ASU had been a particular priority given the identified need to enhance armed support capability in Dublin and to free up the resources of the Emergency Response Unit. All the necessary resources have been provided to equip the new ASU and steps have been taken to upgrade the equipment available to the Emergency Response Unit and the Special Detective Unit;
during 2016, the Garda Commissioner established a new Garda Special Crime Task Force in the DMR, under the Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau, to augment the response to organised crime at a local level through concentrated policing, and through a multi-agency approach to targeting the proceeds of crime;
- Operation Hybrid has been established to coordinate the response to violent crime in Dublin and address public safety concerns about community safety and benefits from significant support by Armed Support Units. As of 21 January 2018 this response has included:
- 72 arrests;
- 13 charges in total (of which 10 charges related to murder investigations, 3 charges for related offences);
- 34 firearms seized (in relation to murder offences);
- In the region of 260 searches;
- 15,260 lines of enquiry conducted with more than 50,450 high visibility checkpoints implemented with significant support from Armed Support Units;
- a significant amount of CCTV footage, mobile phone traffic, and forensic evidence has also been examined.
These measures are in addition to Operation Thor – the multi-strand national anti-crime and anti-burglary operation targeting burglaries and related crime which was put in place in November 2015 and has led to significant reductions in burglary related crime nationally in its first year of operation.
An Garda Síochána is also working closely with community representatives in the North Inner City, and elsewhere, to provide assurance and support in relation to gang related violence, building on strong existing community policing relationships. Question No. 93 answered with Question No. 81.