233. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Justice the discussions she has had with the Garda Commissioner on community engagement following the death of a person (details supplied); the engagement proposed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9278/21]
Minister for Justice (Deputy Helen McEntee): I would again like to extend my deepest sympathies to all those impacted by the tragic event in Hartstown, and in particular to the family of the late Mr George Nkencho. All incidents resulting in a fatality are deeply distressing events and I know that the local community have experienced real trauma as a result of these events.
I understand that Gardaí have been engaging with the local community with regard to the distress caused by the incident, and family liaison officers from both the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) and An Garda Síochána have been available to the family.
As with every incident involving a member of An Garda Síochána that results in the death of a person, this case is being fully and independently investigated by GSOC, which is chaired by a High Court Judge, Ms Justice Mary Ellen Ring.
Such incidents are very rare in Ireland but all are fully investigated independently. GSOC have commenced an investigation under section 98 of the Garda Síochána Act, 2005. It needs to be clearly understood that GSOC can make wider systemic recommendations on issues they investigate and they are free to do so in this instance also.
I have been assured by the Garda Commissioner that An Garda Síochána engagement with community representatives has continued since the tragedy. Community policing is, and has always been, key to the work of An Garda Síochána and An Garda Síochána works proactively to maintain positive relationship with all communities.
The Garda Síochána Diversity and Integration Strategy 2019-2021 reflects the organisation’s strong commitment to engage proactively and respectfully with all members of society, including those from minority groups and diverse backgrounds. This Strategy builds trust and identifies the policy needs of all diverse minority and ‘hard to reach’ communities.
The Garda National Diversity and Integration Unit (GNDIU) forms part of the Garda Community Relations Bureau and has a very positive working relationship with the African Community in Ireland. The latter are represented on the Garda National Diversity Forum, which informs the Garda Diversity and Integration Strategy.
Along with the Garda Commissioner and my colleague the Minister for Children, Equality, Integration and Youth, I met with the Network African Irish Leaders on 8 February and discussed a number of recommendations with them. I intend to meet with them again in the coming weeks to discuss how those recommendations might be taken forward.
Garda Diversity Officers in Blanchardstown have engaged with the local African community and representative groups. Garda Youth Diversion Project workers have also responded to the needs of the family and of many younger people affected by the incident.
In this context, I understand that Juvenile Liaison Officers report having very positive engagements with young people and their parents and guardians from all backgrounds in the Blanchardstown area. It is their view that the relationships between young people and Gardaí, and specifically Juvenile Liaison Officers, are very strong and mutually respectful, both before and after this incident.
The Juvenile Liaison Officers report that the level of participation and engagement with Garda Youth Diversion Projects by young people in the Blanchardstown area is extremely good. Additionally, the GNDIU have recently begun engaging with a group of young Irish people, Black and Irish , in the Kildare Garda Division. This group is keen to explore opportunities with the Gardaí with a view to breaking down barriers and positive engagement.
I can further inform the Deputy that my Department is also engaging with the Garda Youth Diversion Project (GYDP) in the area and has approved funding to employ an additional Youth Justice Worker for the project to cater for the increased number of referrals being experienced and the specific circumstances in the local community. Minister of State Browne met with representatives of the local GYDP and staff to be briefed on the issues facing the project in the area and to identify any further supports or responses required from our Department. The discussion will inform our implementation of the new Youth Justice Strategy, which I intend to bring to Government shortly.