1. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Justice and Equality her views on the fact that the number of gardaí has fallen below 13,000; the optimum level of membership of An Garda Síochána in order to police the country effectively; the further recruitment planned; the further plans she has to expand and integrate the Garda Reserve into the mainstream body of An Garda Síochána; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7168/15]


Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): The Deputy's party when in government introduced a moratorium. I am pleased that the Government has been able to reopen Templemore training college and restart recruitment. There are now 300 recruits in the college in Templemore. This has proved possible because of the improved economic situation and been welcomed by everybody.
The strength of An Garda Síochána on 31 December 2014, the latest date for which figures are readily available, was 12,799. There were also 1,124 Garda Reserve members, with a further 48 in training. In addition, there was a significant increase in the number of civilian staff, as recommended in every report that has analysed the future role of An Garda Síochána. The reports state there are tasks which are appropriate to civilians. Just three weeks ago, 42 more civilians started work at Dublin Airport, replacing gardaí who did the job previously.
I am pleased to add that my colleague, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, agreed to the resumption of Garda recruitment and, as I said, we now have 300 student gardaí in training. Sufficient gardaí are needed to support the delivery of the policing service which the public expects and deserves. This does mean that an appropriate level of Garda recruitment is needed, not simply to counter the effect of ongoing retirements but also to bring to An Garda Síochána the energy and vitality of young recruits that are so important in the often physically demanding work of policing. I remain in discussions with my colleague, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, on the exact timing of future intakes of Garda recruits.
The Deputy asked about Garda strength. Clearly, many factors impact on the appropriate optimum Garda strength. They include the availability of a modern ICT infrastructure, an issue with which we are dealing effectively, and changes in organisation and work practices to maximise efficiency. A key objective must be to ensure the best use of Garda resources, with which I am sure the Deputy would agree. It has featured strongly in reports we have recently received from the Garda Inspectorate analysing the exact use of gardaí and where they should be allocated. The Garda Commissioner and management staff are examining these recommendations very carefully.
Additional information not given on the floor of the House.
As Deputies will be aware, this is against the wider backdrop of a significant programme of Garda reform already under way, including the forthcoming policing authority, and I look forward to their input into these issues in due course.
I fully support the important role of the Garda Reserve in the delivery of the policing service. We are fortunate that over 1,000 members of the public, from all walks of life, have volunteered to help An Garda Síochána in protecting the community. We owe them a debt of gratitude. I certainly want to see the most made of their talents and commitment and I am pleased that the Garda Commissioner is finalising arrangements to extend the powers and functions of Reserve members in order that they can make a greater contribution to policing.