241. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the plans of An Garda Síochána in regard to the 1,500 posts identified for civilianisation by the Policing Authority; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8388/18]


Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): The Government approved an ambitious combined five-year reform and high level workforce plan for An Garda Síochána in July 2016. The plan which is underway through the vehicle of the Garda Commissioner's Modernisation and Renewal Programme 2016-2021 includes a commitment to achieving a medium term target of 20% civilians by 2021, in effect a doubling of civilian staff to 4,000 over the term of the programme. This is to be achieved through twin policies of "civilian by default" and redeployment. "Civilian by default" refers to the filling of new posts other than operational policing posts and non-operational policing posts that become vacant by civilian staff unless policing expertise is required.
In relation to the redeployment policy this is informed by Garda Inspectorate's "Changing Policing in Ireland" report which estimated that approximately 1,500 Gardaí may be suitable for re-deployment. The Government’s plan aims to return as many of these Gardaí as possible to front-line duties over the next five years.
An Garda Síochána is currently working on the development of a redeployment plan in respect of the 1,500 target and has identified a target of approximately 160 for redeployment in the first part of 2018. However, in relation to redeploying Gardaí, I would emphasise that this is not something that can be done overnight. It is important that this is done fairly and that it takes account of individual circumstances including the length of time that a Garda has been away from the front-line and the reasons behind it. Some Gardaí may, for example, be on light duties following an injury in the course of their work while others may have been assigned to administrative duties early in their policing careers and may need refresher training to support their transition to front-line duties. Garda management is working to develop a model that will take account of these issues.
It is important that these issues are bottomed out at this stage as this will, I believe, facilitate more Gardaí being deployed to frontline policing duties in the medium to longer term. It will be a major change for the organisation and it is important that it is well-managed so that members and civilian staff embrace it rather than resist it. This will assist in ensuring the development of a culture of sworn members and civilians working together seamlessly each making a valuable contribution to the delivery of effective policing services.
I will be meeting the Garda Commissioner in the coming days with regard to progress on the reform plan and I will be stressing the importance of, and the need to accelerate, civilianisation including redeployment during 2018.
Civilianisation including redeployment will not happen overnight but as I have made clear, the implementation of the ambitious reform programme, including civilianisation, must continue and, indeed, must move at a greater pace, to ensure the best possible policing services to the people of Ireland.