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Commissioner, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen and most especially members of the Garda Reserve.
I am delighted to be here with you today on what must be a very special day for you and your families.
For all of you who are graduating as Reserve members this is indeed a proud day. It marks the end of a rigorous selection process and an intense training programme. You have come through with flying colours and you are now able to join your colleagues as members of An Garda Síochána.
In these difficult financial times the Garda Reserve must be congratulated. You have made the choice to give willingly of your time to contribute to the good of society. In doing so, your volunteering helps everyone in the country, without exception, by helping to maintain peace and security for us all. On behalf of all the people in the country, I would like to thank you for this.
Since its establishment, the Garda Reserve has been of great benefit to An Garda Síochána and to society in general. As you become members of An Garda Síochána today, a burden of responsibility is laced on your shoulders. You now belong to a Force with a long and proud tradition - a tradition of upholding the law of the land without fear or favour. This Force has served this country by upholding the law and protecting the most vulnerable in this country. An Garda Síochána enjoy huge levels of trust from the communities that they serve and which you represent. This has been built up by generations of Gardaí who served their communities well. It behoves you to continue this tradition in your work alongside full time members.
A great asset of the Garda Reserve is its diversity – you all come from a range of backgrounds, ethnicities, and professions. With this you bring a wealth of experiences which will allow you to foster relationships between communities and the police force. This will be of great benefit to the organisation and to community policing in this country. Today we have graduates from Albania, America, Croatia, India, Lithuania, Poland and Romania. In total this brings the number of non-Irish nationals as Reserve members to 72. The Garda Reserve a real example of how integration is being achieved in the Ireland of today.
The Garda Reserve is going from strength to strength, now with over 1, 163 attested members and about 100 in training. The Reserve makes a real and tangible contribution to the policing of our State. You help to reassure people that, despite the current pressure on Garda numbers, the delivery of a policing service and the prevention and detection of crime remains of utmost importance. The public are seeking frontline visibility and you will play a vital role in the provision of this service.
While recruitment to the Garda Reserve will continue, I am also very pleased to announce today that I have received sanction from my colleague the Minster for Public Expenditure and Reform to begin the process of recruitment to the full time force. It is very important for an organisation like An Garda Síochána, given the demanding nature of policing, to receive a reasonably regular intake of new recruits. I will now make arrangements with the Public Appointments Service so that they can do the necessary preparatory work to deal with what is expected to be a very large number of applications later this year.
Some time ago, following a review of the Garda Reserve, the Commissioner decided to extend their powers. These new powers cover such areas as Domestic Violence, Child protection, Conflict Resolution, Bullying and Harassment, Out of Vehicle Safety Training and other matters. You have been trained in all these additional powers and I hope you use these powers well. I understand from the Commissioner that the training of all the other Reserve members will be completed in the very near future.
All of you are aware of the economic realities which face each and every one of us at this time. An Garda Síochána is not immune from these economic difficulties and despite these difficulties, the Commissioner continues in his work at providing and efficient and effective police service. The framework provided by the Haddington Road Agreement will enable the public sector to reduce the government deficit and restore the public finances to a healthier state. As Minister with responsibility for protecting the security of the State, I would like to reassure everyone here today that the Garda Commissioner and I will ensure that, in so far as possible, the maximum amount of resources will be made available to the Gardaí and that optimum use is made of these resources. Our objective is to ensure that the best possible Garda service continues to be provided to the public within the limiting circumstances in which we find ourselves today.
Getting back to today’s event, 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.
As Reserve Gardaí you will be at the heart of police work in your communities. You will be the local face of policing and you will be confronting not just crime itself, but also the fear of crime. The force can be rightly proud of its record in preventing and detecting crime; in that regard it stands with the best in the world. But as uniformed members working on our roads and in our towns, you will be the visible reassurance to all of safety and security – the guardians of the peace and the providers of peace of mind. I commend you for your public spirit in undertaking this vital and challenging role and committing some of your free time to serving your community.
You are a symbol of what we in Ireland are known for across the world – selfless volunteerism. You are great role models for young people in society. I wish you well in the Garda Síochána in the years to come and I thank you for offering your time and your commitment to making your community and our country a safer place.
I wish you all and your families an enjoyable day.