269. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to increase the number of gardaí and vehicles attached to the Garda armed support unit in the Dublin metropolitan region following the increase in serious and organised crime over the past few months; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7080/18]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): 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.
At the request of the Commissioner in 2016, the Government moved decisively to strengthen Garda resources to deal with gang-related crime in the Dublin area. Funding was approved for the establishment of a dedicated Armed Support Unit (ASU) for the Dublin Metropolitan Region in order to enhance armed support capability in Dublin and to free up the resources of the Emergency Response Unit. Following a selection and training process, the ASU for the DMR became fully operational in December 2016 and is providing armed cover in the DMR on a 24 hour basis.
Members of the ASU are highly trained and equipped with a variety of non-lethal and lethal weapons and perform high visibility armed checkpoints and patrols throughout the DMR.
I am informed that the detail of the number of Gardaí and resources allocated to the ASU is deemed to be operationally sensitive and cannot be disclosed for security reasons.
However, I am assured by the Commissioner that the training, equipment and personnel capacities of the Regional Armed Support Units including the Dublin Armed Support Unit and the Emergency Response Unit are kept under constant review with a view to ensuring that their functional capacity is kept at the optimum level.
This Government is committed to ensuring a strong and visible police presence throughout the country including on the streets of the capital in order to maintain and strengthen community engagement, provide reassurance to citizens and to deter crime. To make this a reality for all the Government has in place a plan for an overall Garda workforce of 21,000 personnel by 2021 including 15,000 Garda members.
Real, tangible progress has been made towards this goal. Garda numbers, taking account of projected retirements, increased to 13,551 at the end of 2017 - a net increase of over 600 since the end of 2016. I am pleased that funding is in place to maintain this high level of investment in the Garda workforce. This year a further 800 new Garda Recruits will enter the Garda College - 200 of whom have already entered since 29 January. 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.
The investment in personnel I have outlined is complemented by substantial investment in resources across the board for An Garda Síochána. The Capital Plan 2016 – 2021 provides for an investment of €46 million the Garda fleet to ensure that An Garda Síochána has a modern, effective and fit for purpose fleet. 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.
Undoubtedly, this investment in resources and the on-going recruitment process will support all Garda activities and enhance visibility within our communities and will enable the Commissioner to provide additional resources to tackle the scourge of organised crime in our communities.