At the outset I wish to repeat what was said last night by Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Alan Shatter. This motion proposed by Fianna Fail should have been withdrawn by that party and not debated in this House on the eve of the funeral of Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe, nor come before the House to be voted on tonight, a short few hours after Garda Donohoe being laid to rest. This is a deeply cynical and dishonest motion. Even Fianna Fail should have had sufficient insight to have recognised the inappropriateness of proposing, debating and voting on such a motion at this time. Tonight is not the night for this House to divide and engage in politics as usual with regard to any matter affecting an Garda Síochána.
Before saying anything more I would like to join with all the members of this House who have expressed their revulsion and deep sadness at the brutal murder of Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe and to extend my condolences to all of his family and to all members of an Garda Síochána. May he rest in peace.
Fianna Fáil have surpassed themselves with their memory loss over the past two nights. It is not often that Sinn Féin support the Minister but even they could not hold back on the breathtaking hypocrisy that we heard from the party who sold this country down the river and who ensured that the taxpayer was left to pay for the mess that they left behind. The fact that they were the ones who agreed with the EU/IMF to reduce the Garda numbers to 13,000 speaks for itself and does not warrant further airspace.
Closure of Stations
The Commissioner has the full backing of the Minister in his endeavours to bring about meaningful change in the force. The suggestion that the Minister is absolving himself and pointing the finger at Garda management for the closure of the Garda Stations must be rejected outright and shows how little the Deputy knows about the law of the land.
The situation is as follows. As required under the Garda Síochána Act of 2005, the Garda Commissioner prepared his draft policing plan for 2013. In doing so he carried out an assessment of the potential for improved efficiencies in the structure and organisation of the Garda Síochána. His objective is, as always, to provide the most effective policing service possible, within available resources, across the country.
A key question that arose during that assessment was whether it was better to have highly trained members of the Garda Síochána confined to indoor duties when they could be available for frontline operational policing. The Commissioner concluded that resources could be better deployed by closing some Garda stations and reducing the public opening hours of others at off-peak times which in turn have released Gardaí for operational duties. The Gardai will continue to work with the communities they serve and Garda management will continue to closely monitor the allocation of resources, taking account of transfers and retirements, crime trends, policing needs and other operational strategies in place on a District, Divisional and Regional level.
Another allegation made was that the new roster is not working and members of an Garda Síochána are not happy with it. The Minister does not agree. It was agreed by all sides that the new roster would be introduced as a year long pilot. The pilot is ongoing and the feedback from Gardai is very positive. Without doubt it is the single biggest transformation project in the Garda Síochána, and arguably in the public service. The current economic situation and the drive to improve the quality and efficiency of service to the public were contributing factors in this regard as indeed was the need to protect the health and welfare of the members of the Garda Síochána. The new Garda roster system ensures that resources are optimally deployed when and where they are required, to every part of the community, both rural and urban. Evidence of the new roster is immediately apparent on our streets as more Gardaí are on duty at peak times than heretofore. Quite simply there are more Gardai available when they are most needed
There have been some suggestions made in this debate which the Minster will pass on to the Commissioner for his consideration.
The Minister said yesterday and I repeat here today that the men and women of An Garda Síochána are called on frequently to place their lives on the line so that we can be safe. An attack on a member of An Garda Síochána is an attack on the community itself. The members of An Garda Síochána who were killed on duty since the foundation of the State put their lives on the line to uphold our democracy and protect our citizens. They carried out their duties with bravery and diligence and they paid the ultimate price. Their families have endured sacrifices for their country that most of us cannot imagine. Our thoughts and prayers are with those families especially the family of Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe. May God console them at this dreadful time. May he rest in peace.