68. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality to allocate additional resources to the Garda Síochána in Mullingar, County Westmeath. [11985/16]
Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): As the Deputy will appreciate, it is the Garda Commissioner who 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. I am assured by the Garda Commissioner that the allocation of Gardaí is continually monitored and reviewed taking into account all relevant factors including crime trends, demographics, and security assessments relating to the area in question so as to ensure optimal use is made of Garda human resources.
I have been informed by the Garda Commissioner that as of the 31 March 2016, the latest date for which figures are readily available, there were 160 members, 11 Reserves and 14 civilians assigned to the Mullingar Garda District.
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 deter crime. Key to achieving this goal is the commitment in the Programme for Government, "A Programme for a Partnership Government" to continue the ongoing accelerated Garda recruitment programme with a view to increasing Garda numbers to 15,000.
As the Deputy will be aware, when the financial crisis hit, the Government of the time introduced a moratorium on recruitment and the four year National Recovery Plan, published in 2010, envisaged a steady reduction in Garda numbers. Thankfully, in a recovering economy, we were able to reopen the Garda College in September 2014, a total of 700 Garda trainees have been recruited with a further 450 planned to be recruited during the remainder of this year. So far 395 of the new Garda trainees have attested as members of An Garda Síochána and have been assigned to mainstream uniform duties nationwide. I am informed by the Garda Commissioner that 5 newly attested Gardaí have been assigned to Westmeath Garda Division. I am assured by the Commissioner that the needs of all Garda Divisions are fully considered when determining the allocation of newly attested Gardaí.
It is expected that a further 300 trainees will attest by the end of this year which, taking account of projected retirements, will bring Garda numbers to around the 13,000 mark. We must, I believe, endeavour to make more rapid progress than this to reach our target of 15,000 and I will be engaging with my colleague, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, in relation to increasing the planned annual intake this year and in coming years.