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Question

106. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the extent to which sufficient provision is being made in terms of resources, technology and appropriate staffing levels, to facilitate An Garda Síochána in tackling the new emerging criminal gangs, who appear to have achieved a high level of criminal professionalism, learned from their predecessors; if a specific response is required in this situation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7561/15]

109. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the extent to which she remains satisfied, regarding the ability of An Garda Síochána to respond to new challenges from the criminal world, with particular reference to the availability of modern technology, or other resources required, such an increased strength of the force to cope with new and emerging challenges; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7564/15]

Answer

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): I propose to take Questions Nos. 106 and 109 together.
Under the Garda Síochána Act 2005 the Garda Commissioner is responsible for the distribution of available Garda resources. This includes personnel, Garda vehicles and the various technologies utilised to support frontline Gardaí and intelligence led operations against organised crime. This process takes account of annual policing priorities determined by me as Minister for Justice in consultation with the Commissioner as provided for under Section 20 of the Garda Síochána Act 2005.
The first intake since 2009 of 100 new recruits entered training at the Garda College, Templemore, on 15th September 2014. As part of Budget 2015, a further intake of 200 recruits in two batches was announced. On 15 December 2014, the first 100 of these batches commenced their training and a further 100 entered the college in early February. This will bring to 300 the number of recruits in the Garda College and is a measure of the Government's commitment to ensure that recruitment to An Garda Síochána continues seamlessly. The September intake will attest as members of the Garda Síochána in May 2015 and the December intake will attest in August 2015. On attestation they will be assigned to Garda stations throughout the country by the Garda Commissioner.
The strength of the 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 were over 2,000 Garda civilian staff. I remain in discussion with my colleague the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform on the timing of future intakes of Garda recruits.
I am informed by the Garda authorities that they are continually looking to ensure that the latest information, communications and forensic technologies are sourced and deployed to achieve their strategic objectives as set out in the context of their annual policing plans, as provided for in section 22 of the Garda Síochána Act 2005, which includes commitments to target individuals and groups engaged in organised criminal activity and terrorism. This policy is designed to ensure that the Garda Síochána will be in a position to meet the evolving needs of a modern effective police force and take advantage of proven up to date technological developments in crime detection and prevention as they occur.
In terms of existing technology, the Deputy will be aware that a considerable amount of new Garda ICT solutions has been delivered over the past number of years. These include the deployment of a secure national digital radio system (NDRS), the deployment and support of Garda and Community CCTV systems, an automated number plate recognition (ANPR) system, and the addition of many new functions to the PULSE system, which itself is further supported by a dedicated Garda data entry service in Castlebar.
In the area of forensics the situation is that the Garda authorities currently employ state-of-the-art automated fingerprint and ballistics identification systems which I am informed are at least on a par with those used by police forces in other EU jurisdictions. The Deputy will also be aware that the forensic capacity of An Garda Síochána will be further enhanced by a new national DNA database, scheduled to become operational shortly, which was established on foot of the Criminal Justice (Forensic Evidence and DNA Database System) Act, 2014.
I have also clearly signalled my intention to support the Garda Síochána in its efforts to address deficits which were identified in the recent Garda Inspectorate report on crime investigation. However, the Deputy will appreciate that the issues raised in the report are widespread, varied and far-reaching and, when taken together with the review of the Garda Síochána under the Haddington Road agreement, will demand significant structural reform within the Garda Síochána. The need for additional resources across a number of areas will be examined within that context. Furthermore, I have been informed by the Garda authorities that the Garda Commissioner has commenced an in-depth examination of all recommendations of the Garda Inspectorate Report with a view to determining what can be implemented in the short, medium and long term. I also look forward to the significant contribution to this process of reform that will be made by the new policing authority which is to be established shortly.