3. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the status of the roll-out of new specially trained Garda units to handle cases involving vulnerable witnesses such as those involving child abuse and sexual crimes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49981/18]


Deputy Charles Flanagan: I acknowledge the importance of appropriate expertise in An Garda Síochána as its members undertake important work on a daily basis and, in the issue raised by Deputy O'Callaghan, work of a sensitive and personal nature. The setting up by the Garda Commissioner of the divisional protective services units is one of the actions outlined in the second national strategy on domestic, sexual and gender-based violence. The strategy, in accordance with programme for Government commitments is a whole-of-government approach, involving seven Departments and a number of State bodies, including Tusla and An Garda Síochána.
A key element of the strategy was the recent enactment of the Domestic Violence Bill 2018. Under the existing Garda reform programme, divisional units of the Garda national protective services bureau are being rolled out across the country in two phases. The bureau and its divisional units are tasked with improving services to victims, improving the investigation of sexual and domestic violence incidents and identifying and managing risk. Phase 1 of the roll-out has been completed with divisional units established and working in three areas, Dublin metropolitan region west, Cork city and Louth.
I strongly welcome the important statement by Commissioner Harris this week at the launch of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre annual report on his commitment to the continued roll-out of the divisional protective services units. I am confident that under his leadership and stewardship, there will be rapid progress in the delivery of these important units.
Following an evaluation of the pilot, the next phase will see an additional six divisional bureaus established in Dublin metropolitan region south central, Waterford, Kerry, Kilkenny-Carlow, Limerick and Galway before the end of 2018 with the objective of extending them to all remaining Garda divisions before the end of 2019.