Commissioner, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen and most especially, members of the Garda Reserve.

I am delighted to be here with you on this important occasion.  You should rightly feel very proud to have successfully completed what I have no doubt has been a testing period of training. Now you are ready to join the thousands of members of An Garda Síochána who patrol our streets and keep our communities safe. 

From today, when on duty as Reserve Gardaí, you will be members of An Garda Síochána. With this membership comes responsibilities. The Garda Force has a long and proud tradition - a tradition of upholding the law of the land without fear or favour.  It has been in existence since the foundation of this State. It has served the citizens of this country by upholding the law and protecting the most vulnerable in our society. Members of An Garda Síochána enjoy huge levels of trust within the communities that they serve and which you represent.

Today is a day of celebration for you and your families.  However, it would be remiss of me not to make reference to the risks that Gardaí inevitably  encounter as they go about their work.  The recent brutal murder of Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe, as he carried out his duties as a member of An Garda Síochána, sent shock waves through our communities.   It was a despicable and cowardly act which was abhorred by all decent, right-minded people throughout the country.

A safe society is the responsibility of every member of that society and not just the Gardaí.  The interconnection between the Gardaí and our communities is vital to ensure the successful delivery of an effective policing service in this State.

You have each made the choice to give willingly of your time to contribute to the good of society.  Your volunteering as a Reserve Garda will help to maintain peace and security in our communities.  On behalf of all of us who reside in this State, I thank you.

No one organisation is immune from the harsh economic realities which are impacting our society and every single public sector worker in this State. At a most difficult economic time, the Government is doing everything possible to maintain the resources available to An Garda Síochána at the highest possible level.  I want to take this opportunity to clearly state that it is my intention that Garda numbers will not fall below 13,000 and I will shortly be taking proposals to Cabinet in relation to this.

The Commissioner is overseeing radical changes to make better use of existing resources to bring about a more effective and efficient policing service.   There has been widespread reaction to the closure of some Garda stations.   Much of the criticism is designed to create fear within our communities.   The revised structures will provide for the clustering of services at policing hubs.  Enhanced patrolling will be introduced and an additional 61,000 hours will become available for operational policing.  An Garda Síochána has recently acquired a  number of vehicles which are being converted into mobile Garda offices and these will be assigned to areas where Garda stations have been closed.  The maximum possible number of Gardaí will be freed from desk duties in order to provide a more visible Garda presence in our communities.

I would now like to refer to talks currently taking place to effect essential public expenditure savings and which relate to the pay and allowances of all public servants.  At present, all of the trade union and representative bodies are constructively engaged in discussions except for the GRA and the AGSI who ended their engagement shortly after the talks process commenced.  Unions and representative bodies representing all other 24/7 workers remain within the tent whilst regrettably the two Garda representative bodies are outside.   It is unfortunate that members of An Garda Síochána feel they are being targeted in the context of talks which are currently ongoing to identify savings to be achieved which will affect everyone in the public service including all Members of the Oireachtas and all Ministers.  

Expressions of anger and personal abuse or condemnation are no substitute for rational engagement.  I am urging the Garda representative bodies to re-engage in the talks process as it is only by doing so that they can influence the outcome of the talks.   I acknowledge that members of the Force have genuine concerns but these can only be fully considered and properly addressed by participation in the talks process.

As Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, I fully recognise and am totally supportive of the crucial role that An Garda Síochána plays in the interests of the State and for all of us who reside in it.  I also fully support the Garda Commissioner and those working with him in the crucial role that they play in making operational decisions and judgements to ensure we have a modern and effective policing service. It is my role in Government to be supportive in the context of ensuring as best as I can in the difficult financial circumstances confronting the State that the maximum possible resources are available to An Garda Síochána to facilitate its important work.   For 2013, €1.4 Billion has been allocated for An Garda Síochána and it is of crucial importance that the resources available are efficiently used both in the interests of the Force and in the interests of the general public.  Insofar as this requires modernisation and change based on a sound operational assessment, it is important that change is embraced and not resisted.

Of additional importance is that the good standing and the widespread public respect for An Garda Síochána is maintained and that members of the Force do not lose sight of the important and unique role that the Force has in this State.  The importance of discipline within the Force cannot be over-emphasised and it is crucial that rank and file members respect and comply with operational decisions and reforms identified as necessary by those in a position of authority within An Garda Síochána.  Whatever criticism some may wish to voice of me, it is not appropriate that members of a disciplined Force engage in public criticism of the Garda Commissioner.   It is also important that members of the Force remember, and in particular this applies to those in positions of leadership in the Garda representative bodies, that the Force plays a crucial role in policing our Constitutional democracy and in protecting our citizens from subversion.  Whilst it is desirable that the representative bodies play a constructive role in addressing issues that affect both the pay and conditions of work of members of the Force, they should not lead their members down the slippery slope of questioning the democratic entitlement of the Government of the day to engage in the current  discussions at a time when the State, including many citizens in our State both in the public and private sector are  under enormous financial pressure,  at a time when we have 430,000 unemployed  and at a time when, in order to obtain crucial financial supports to pay for public services we remain under an obligation to substantially reduce the State’s public expenditure.  Contrary to what has been stated, these discussions are not about a breach of the Croke Park Agreement but about negotiating a new agreement to apply to the end of 2016. 

The Garda Reserve is representative of the new diverse Ireland. It is heartening to see so many graduates today from a number of different countries and Garda reserves now represent 31 different countries from around the world. Your participation in the Garda Reserve sends out a strong message of inclusively to all communities. It also sends out the message that you are willing to serve your adopted country in the best possible way. Your membership will serve to strengthen even more the ties between our communities and An Garda Síochána.

The Garda Reserve has now over 1,000 members and continues to grow.  The Reserve makes a real and tangible contribution to the policing of our State.  Frontline visibility is a key component of community policing and you will play a vital role in the provision of this service.

I would also like to highlight that, despite reports to the contrary, this first-rate College here in Templemore is, and will continue to be, the primary training centre for recruit and serving Gardaí.  As you will of course be well aware, Garda Reserve training is taking place here. Continuous professional development training for full time members is also taking place here and that will continue.  The question of new recruitment is under active consideration and it is an issue that I will address with my Cabinet colleagues during the course of this year.   Templemore College, of course, also plays an important role in the local economy.  In this local context, I was pleased to announce earlier this week that 25 additional staff will shortly be redeployed to the Garda Central Vetting Unit  and that these staff will be located in the Department of Justice offices in Tipperary town. 

Finally, I would like to thank the staff here at the training college, who, I’m sure you will agree, provide top-class instruction and guidance in preparation for your future service. I have no doubt that they will join with me in congratulating you on your achievements so far, and wishing you well in your future time with An Garda Síochána.  Above all, I would like you to enjoy the day and the well-deserved celebrations with your friends and family.

Go raibh míle maith agaibh.

ENDS