19. Deputy Bobby Aylward asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality if any of the Garda Stations closed in counties Carlow and Kilkenny in 2012 and 2013 are included in the six stations being examined for reopening under the pilot programme. [15771/17]
Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): The Deputy will appreciate that the Garda Commissioner is primarily responsible for the effective and efficient use of the resources available to her, including in relation to Garda stations.
As the Deputy will be aware, the Garda Síochána District and Station Rationalisation Programme gave rise to the closure in 2012 and 2013 of some 139 Garda stations, including Leighlinbridge in Carlow and Ballyragget, Inistioge and Johnstown in Kilkenny, following the completion by An Garda Síochána of a comprehensive review of its district and station network. That review was undertaken with the objective of identifying opportunities to introduce strategic reforms to enhance service delivery, increase efficiency and streamline practices within the organisation. I have been advised by the Garda authorities that the closures have allowed front line Garda to be managed and deployed with greater mobility, greater flexibility and in a more focused fashion, particularly with regard to targeted police operations.
The Programme for Government commits the Government 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. A cornerstone of this commitment is the Government plan to achieve an overall Garda workforce of 21,000 personnel by 2021 comprising 15,000 Garda members, 2,000 Reserve members and 4,000 civilians. Revisiting the decisions made to close Garda stations is also part of that commitment.
In this context, I have requested the Garda Commissioner, while fully cognisant of her statutory functions, to identify 6 stations for reopening on a pilot basis to determine possible positive impacts that such openings will have on criminal activity, with special emphasis on burglaries, theft and public order. The pilot will feed into the wider review being undertaken by the Garda Síochána Inspectorate, at the request of the Policing Authority, of the dispersal and use of resources available to An Garda Síochána in the delivery of policing services to local communities.
I understand that work is continuing in An Garda Síochána to identify the 6 stations for inclusion in the pilot and that consultations have taken place with relevant stakeholders, including the Policing Authority. In this context, I am sure that the Deputy would agree that a comprehensive and evidenced-based analysis should be carried out, taking account of all the relevant factors, before a final decision is made in respect of the stations to be reopened by the Commissioner.
I expect to receive a report from the Commissioner by the end of May in connection with the exercise.