Commissioner, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.

It is an honour and a very great pleasure for me to be here today to celebrate the graduation of the first Reserve members of An Garda Síochána.

While we look back at the proud tradition of An Garda Síochána and its history of service, we also look to the future. The force continues to stand as the bulwark of civilised society against barbarous murderers such as those who have brought violence to our country in recent days. An Garda Síochána is meeting that challenge with wholehearted support of this Government. The Commissioner is confident that he has the resources he needs to tackle the scourge of gangland crime. And I am confident that the men and women of An Garda Síochána will continue to serve with the dedication that is their hallmark to bring the perpetrators of such evil crimes to justice.

The first graduation of Reserve members today is an historic day for the force and I want to acknowledge the hard work and effort that has been put in by so many people to make it possible.

I would like to thank the Commissioner Noel Conroy for his commitment to this project and those in An Garda Síochána who have worked to make this day a reality. A large number of people throughout the service were involved in the preparation for the introduction of the Reserve, in particular, the Human Resource Management, Change Management, the Press Office as well as the Procurement and IT Units. I also want to recognise the ongoing efforts of Human Resource Management and the Public Appointments Service in recruiting and selecting candidates for the Garda Reserve.

I would also like to pay tribute to the Garda College. You have shown great dedication in organising the training of Reserve members, and doing so at a time when there are unprecedented demands on you in training the substantial intake of full-time trainees. I would also like to thank those members of An Garda Síochána who have been involved at local level in the training and preparation of the Reserve trainees for this important day and for their future role in policing their communities. Finally I would like to thank the Garda representative associations, those who supported this project from the start and those who have more recently come on board, a development which I warmly welcome.

But most of all I want to commend you, the new Reserve members of An Garda Síochána, for your commitment and effort. I know that in the two and a half months since 30 September, when you first came to this College, you have engaged in an intense training process. You have learnt a lot about your future role in your communities and how you will work with your full-time colleagues to help police those communities. Your demonstration of dedication, energy and enthusiasm is a clear indication of the qualities that each and every one of you brings to the Garda Reserve. You have committed long hours to your training and have had to sacrifice time with your family and friends - and I am delighted to welcome so many of them here today to share this occasion. They should be extremely proud of your achievement, and of your willingness to volunteer your time to serve in your communities.

I also know that you also bring a wealth of experience and expertise from your professional and private lives which will be of immense benefit to the force. Your local knowledge of the communities within which you will serve will be an invaluable resource and will help to deepen the relationship between An Garda Síochána and those communities.

The establishment of the Garda Reserve is the commencement of a new chapter in policing in Ireland. This becomes a reality today as you, the first Reserve members, graduate. More than 7,000 people have applied to join the Reserve and this overwhelming response demonstrates the confidence that the Irish people have in our national police force, despite the difficulties which have dominated the media over recent times. The next group of trainees will soon follow in your footsteps, commencing training here in Templemore in January.

You are becoming Reserve members of An Garda Síochána at a very exciting time. Policing in Ireland is entering a new era. An Garda Síochána is undergoing huge reform. Building on its proud tradition, it is transforming into a modern, fully accountable and transparent professional police service. Its membership has never been higher, and it has more resources than ever before.

The framework within which An Garda Síochána operates has also been changing substantially. The past twelve months have seen the establishment of the Garda Ombudsman Commission and the Garda Inspectorate. The Garda Commissioner has taken on greater responsibility for the management of the resources of the force as well as responsibility for all civilian staff. Organisational changes are taking place to strengthen the management of the force and to provide expert civilian support to free more Garda - to use their skills and experience in operational policing.

The establishment of the Reserve I believe will enhance An Garda Síochána, as it has enhanced police forces in the UK and beyond. It will strengthen the links with local communities and will be a source of local support and knowledge.

Before I conclude I would like to take a moment to remember recruit Garda Gary Sheehan and Private Patrick Kelly of the Defence Forces. These young men were tragically murdered on the 16th December 1983 while on duty at Ballinamore, Co. Leitrim. Recruit Garda Sheehan, along with other recruits from the Garda College, Gardaí and members of the Defence Forces, was searching for Don Tidey who had been kidnapped by the IRA, when the tragedy occurred. Our thoughts go out to the families and friends of both these young men on the eve of their anniversary.

I firmly believe that your participation in this proud organisation through your volunteering in the Reserve will be immensely rewarding to all of you and to all who work with you. I would like to extend sincere congratulations to you all. This is a very significant and special day and I want to wish you all a successful and rewarding future as members of the Garda Reserve.

Thank you.