229. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of vacant positions within An Garda Síochána in the Dublin metropolitan region; when it is expected these vacancies will be filled; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8195/18]


Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): As the Deputy will appreciate, the Garda Commissioner is responsible for the distribution of resources, including personnel, among the various Garda Divisions and I, as Minister, have no direct role in the matter. Garda management keeps this distribution of resources under continual review in the context of crime trends and policing priorities so as to ensure that the optimum use is made of these resources.
I am informed by the Commissioner that in regard to the deployment of Garda personnel, a distribution model is used which takes into account all relevant factors including population, crime trends and the policing needs of each individual Garda Division. Where a deficiency in resources is identified the matter is considered fully and addressed accordingly.  As you will appreciate, in order to deliver an effective policing service, it is essential that Garda management have the flexibility to deploy Garda resources to meet operational policing needs and address critical issues as they arise.
I am informed by the Commissioner that the overall strength of the Dublin Metropolitan Region (DMR) as of the 31 December 2017 was 3,485. When appropriate, the work of local Gardaí in the DMR is supported by a number of Garda national units, the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau and the Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau.
In addition, at the request of the Commissioner in 2016, the Government moved decisively to strengthen Garda resources to deal with gang-related crime in the Dublin area.  Funding was approved for the establishment of a dedicated Armed Support Unit (ASU) for the DMR in order to enhance armed support capability in Dublin and to free up the resources of the Emergency Response Unit.  Following a selection and training process, the ASU for the DMR became fully operational in December 2016 and is providing armed cover in the DMR on a 24 hour basis. Members of the ASU are highly trained and equipped with a variety of non-lethal and lethal weapons and perform high visibility armed checkpoints and patrols throughout the DMR.
This Government is committed to ensuring a strong and visible police presence throughout the country in order to maintain and strengthen community engagement, provide reassurance to citizens and to deter crime. To achieve this the Government has put in place a plan for an overall Garda workforce of 21,000 personnel by 2021 comprising 15,000 Garda members, 2,000 Reserve members and 4,000 civilians. We are making real, tangible progress on achieving this goal.  
I am informed by the Commissioner that since the reopening of the Garda College in September 2014, just under 1,600 recruits have attested as members of An Garda Síochána of whom 719 or 45% have been assigned to the DMR.  I am pleased to say that Garda numbers, taking account of retirements, increased to 13,551 at the end of 2017 - a net increase of over 600 since the end of 2016.
I am also pleased that funding is in place to maintain this high level of investment in the Garda workforce to ensure that the vision of an overall workforce of 21,000 by 2021 remains on track. This year a further 800 new Garda Recruits will enter the Garda College. Also 800 Garda trainees are scheduled to attest during the year which will see Garda numbers, taking account of projected retirements, reach 14,000 by the end of 2018.
In addition, a further 500 civilians will also be recruited to fill critical skills gaps across the organisation and to facilitate the redeployment of Gardaí from administrative and technical duties to front-line operational duties. There are plans to strengthen the Garda Reserve with new Reserves expected to commence training in 2018.
In relation to the filling of vacancies in the supervisory ranks I am advised by the Commissioner that there are currently competitions in train for promotion to the ranks of Sergeant and Inspector. I am assured by the Commissioner that following completion of these competitions the needs of all Garda Divisions including the DMR Divisions will be fully considered when determining the allocation of successful candidates. As the Deputy will be aware the Policing Authority has responsibility for making appointments to the senior ranks of Superintendent, Chief Superintendent and Assistant Commissioner, having undertaken selection competitions.