Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to increase the number of gardaí along the Border areas in County Donegal to deal with the increase in criminal activity; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5466/18]
99. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of gardaí in County Donegal in each of the past ten years; his plans to allocate additional resources to County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5450/18]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): I propose to take Questions Nos. 86 and 99 together.
As the Deputy will appreciate, it is the Garda Commissioner who 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.
I am informed by the Commissioner that the Garda strength of the Donegal Division on 31 December 2017 was 386 with 16 Garda Reserves and 36 Garda civilian staff attached to the Division. When appropriate, the work of local Gardaí is supported by a number of Garda national units such as the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, the Armed Support Units, the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau and the Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau.
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.
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, of whom 28 have been assigned to the Donegal Division. 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 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, including the Donegal Division.
I am informed that Garda activities in relation to Operation Thor are conducted in each county throughout Ireland, including the Donegal Division. The operation involves a broad range of activities to tackle organised crime gangs and other prolific offenders as well as working with communities to prevent crime. This comprehensive operation is supported by the enhanced Government investment in Garda resources, including an allocation of approximately €100 million for Garda overtime in 2018. These additional investments in policing make it possible to maintain and extend a range of intensive policing operations, including the continued targeting of burglaries and related crime via Operation Thor.
Under Operation Thor we have seen over 105,790 targeted checkpoints and 99,210 crime prevention patrols nationwide. This concentrated policing activity has produced in the region of 6,600 arrests and 7,420 charges covering a range of offences which, in addition to burglary, have included handling stolen property, possession of firearms and drugs offences.
This Government has also made it a particular priority to strengthen our legislative provisions through the enactment of the Criminal Justice (Burglary of Dwellings) Act 2015 which is targeted at repeat burglars who have previous convictions and who are charged with multiple offences of residential burglary. This new legislation is now available to support the work which is being carried out by An Garda Síochána under Operation Thor.
The Deputy will also be aware that there is close and ongoing cooperation between An Garda Síochána and the PSNI on all aspects of policing, with a particular focus on combatting security threats and cross-border crime. The Commissioner and the Chief Constable of the PSNI, who are responsible for operational policing cooperation, have repeatedly emphasised the scope and the value of the close and high quality co-operation between the two police services in combatting crime, protecting community safety and saving lives. The two police services operate a joint Cross-Border Policing Strategy which has as its aims to improve public safety throughout Ireland, to disrupt criminal activity and to enhance the policing capability of both police services on the island.
The information in relation to the number of Gardaí in the Donegal Division in each of the past ten years, is as set out as follows:
Personnel strength of the Donegal Division 2008-2017