22. Deputy Tom Neville asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans for Garda recruitment in 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42518/18]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): As the Deputy will be appreciate, the Garda Commissioner has responsibility to manage and control generally the administration and business of An Garda Síochána, 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.
To support the Commissioner in this 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.
As I said on Budget day, the Commissioner will need to consider all aspects of the funding requirement in the Garda Vote and how all resources at his disposal can be best deployed including in relation to the composition of the Service. I expect to receive his proposals in this regard shortly.
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 assigned to duties in communities throughout the country. Garda numbers will increase to approximately 14,000 by the end of this year for the first time since 2011.
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. Work is also continuing on a strategic review of the Garda Reserve which I expect to be concluded shortly.
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 am currently consulting widely on the issues raised including with the Garda Commissioner in advance of returning to Government in December with a high level implementation plan.