142. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of members of An Garda Síochána including reserve members available for duty at all times nationally; the extent to which membership of the force continues to be deployed in order to bring the strength of the force up to optimum levels in all areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4661/19]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): As the Deputy will appreciate, the Garda Commissioner is responsible for the distribution of personnel and I, as Minister, have no direct role in the matter. Garda management keeps this distribution under review in the context of crime trends and policing priorities to ensure optimum use is made of the resources.
I am informed by the Commissioner that as of the 31 December 2018 the overall strength of An Garda Síochána was 14,032 with 530 Reserves and 2,430 Civilians.
I can assure the Deputy that 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.
Since the reopening of the Garda College in September 2014, almost 2,400 recruits have attested as members of An Garda Síochána and have been assigned to mainstream duties nationwide. Garda numbers reached the target of 14,000 by the end of 2018 are on track to reach 15,000 by 2021.
The Commissioner has this year been provided with an additional €100 million bringing his budget to almost €1.8 billion which includes provision for the recruitment of up to 800 Gardaí next year.
The Commissioner has informed me that he intends to recruit a total of 600 trainee Gardaí in 2019 while in tandem it is his intention to recruit a net 600 Garda Staff (civilians). This increase of Garda staff will enable the Commissioner to redeploy 500 Gardaí from administrative duties to frontline policing in 2019.
The Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland, in its report published in September 2018 and which was adopted by the Government in December 2018 recommended that recruitment to the Garda Reserve be paused, pending completion of a strategic review of the Reserve, with a view to ensuring that the best possible use is made of this valuable resource.
It is disappointing that the number of Garda Reserve Members has dropped in recent years. The strength of the Reserve as of 31 December 2018 was 530. However, both the Government and the Garda Commissioner remain committed to increasing the strength of the Garda Reserve and to that end I have been informed by the Commissioner that a training class of approximately 100 Garda Reserves, who successfully applied under previous recruitment drives will commence training in the first quarter of 2019.
For more general information on Garda Facts and Figures please see the following link: http://www.justice.ie/en/JELR/Pages/An_Garda_Siochana_facts_and_figures