124. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the strength of An Garda Síochána to date; the anticipated strength at the end of 2018 based on the number of new recruits, retirements or resignations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42724/18]


Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): As the Deputy will be appreciate, it is the Garda Commissioner who has responsibility to carry on and manage and control generally the administration and business of An Garda Síochana, including by arranging for the recruitment, training and appointment of its members and civilian staff.
The Deputy will be aware An Garda Síochána is currently undertaking a programme of accelerated recruitment, as part of the Government’s commitment to a strengthened service through the Five Year High Level Reform and Workforce Plan to achieve an overall workforce of 21,000 personnel by 2021, including 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 most recent overall figure provided to me by the Commissioner indicates that the overall strength of An Garda Síochána was 13,739 as of 31 August 2018. Since the re-opening of Templemore College in September 2014, we have been rebuilding the Garda organisation and I am pleased that, since then, approximately 2,200 new Garda members have attested and been assigned to duties in communities throughout the country. With another attestation due to take place in November, taking account of projected departures, Garda numbers will increase to approximately 14,000 by the end of this year for the first time since 2011.
To support the Commissioner in this ongoing recruitment, I have secured funding in Budget 2019 which facilitates the recruitment of up to 800 more Gardaí next year. The Budget also provides for the necessary civilian Garda staff to fill critical skills gaps and enable the further redeployment of Gardaí to front line duties.
In addition to the vision of 15,000 Garda members by 2021, plans are also in place for 4,000 civilians and 2,000 Reserves. I am informed by the Commissioner that as of 31 August 2018 there were 2,330 civilians undertaking administrative and technical duties within An Garda Siochana. I am encouraged that the number of civilians working in An Garda Síochána continues to increase, albeit more slowly than anticipated. It is clear, however, that progress is being made with close to 300 new civilian staff posts sanctioned to fill critical skills gaps across the organisation. This will allow more Gardaí to focus on operational policing duties where their training and specialist expertise can be put to best use. Already approximately 150 Gardaí have been redeployed to operational policing duties and I expect these numbers to accelerate in the coming months and throughout 2019.
As the Deputy will also be aware the Commission on the Future of Policing published its report on 18 September. This innovative report sets out a number of recommendations across the policing sector and in particular on the work of An Garda Siochána, including the Garda Reserve. I note that the Report of the Commission for the Future of Policing in Ireland recommends the return of Gardaí to front line policing and the need for visible policing. My Department has consulted with the Garda Commissioner with regard the recommendations within the Report and I await his proposals including how he will increase the pace of civilianisation and the redeployment of Gardaí to mainstream policing duties.