Kilashee House Hotel, Naas 

15th April 2015

Check Against Delivery

 

Mr President, Commissioner, members of the Association of Garda Superintendents, distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

Your work, as district officers and in specialist and national units, is challenging and demanding. Much of that work goes unheard of and unreported. Nevertheless it is of critical importance in maintaining the safety and security of communities across the country. And that's why I'm so glad to have the opportunity to address you today.

 

Mr President, during the course of our meeting last week and in your address today you raise some issues which go to the heart of policing –recruitment, resources and reform.

 

Your insight into these issues, as frontline managers, is greatly valued.

 

This Government is committed to addressing each of these issues in a coherent, integrated way aimed at allowing you to continue to deliver the best possible police service.

 

I know from speaking with Superintendents nationwide that the lack of ongoing recruitment since 2009 has had a real impact on frontline policing service.

 

Restarting recruitment was a key priority for the Government - and for me.

 

Last September we started to deliver - with the first recruitment of new Gardaí since 2009.

 

We reopened the Garda College for new recruitments; and we have committed to not letting it close again.

 

Three hundred have already started their training, and 250 more will join them over the coming months.

 

I promised seamless ongoing recruitment and I am delivering on that promise.

 

This is further supported by the recent recruitment of specialist personnel for specialist positions. I want to see ongoing recruitment of civilian administrative, technical and analyst posts so as to both free-up ‘sworn’ Gardaí for frontline policing duties and to enhancing the service’s investigative and analysis capacities.

 

Competitions for promotion to the ranks of Inspector and Sergeant will commence as early as possible. Of course the Commissioner has also authorised the appointment of 185 new Sergeants and 43 new Inspectors in the last twelve months.

 

On the issue of pay, my colleague, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform has indicated that, following receipt of the 1st Quarter Exchequer returns and engagement with Government colleagues, he intends to engage with Public Service Unions regarding the gradual unwinding, in parallel and consistent with our improving economy, of the emergency measures implemented under the FEMPI Acts.

 

The Council of Europe's concerns about participation by the Garda associations in industrial relations negotiations are also being addressed.

 

An Garda Síochána is first and foremost about people. But those people need to get from A to B. They need central hubs. They need IT.

 

We're moving on all three.

€27.5 million invested in new Garda vehicles, marking a massive increase on the €4.8 million provided for in Budgets 2009-2011. The latest 370 new Garda vehicles have begun coming on stream since the start of this year.

 

I know from speaking with Superintendents that the new vehicles are a welcome boost for Garda districts; as well as being critical to supporting the work of the Traffic Corps and national units.

 

In this year's budget we provided €42 million to start the building of the three new Divisional Headquarters in Galway, Wexford and Kevin Street and I look forward to turning the sod in the Kevin Street site next week.

 

And an additional €4 million for ICT - and that's just the beginning.

 

We can all agree that out-dated paper-based practices must be consigned to history and we must move with confidence; and resources, into the digital era.

 

The recent report of the Garda Inspectorate on Crime management has highlighted many of the issues that need to be addressed. Not least of these is the ICT infrastructure which needs to be in place to support you and your colleagues in your day to day work, be it in terms of command-and control or computer-aided-dispatch or human resource management

 

With my support, the Commissioner has already established a group to develop a coherent long-term ICT strategy.

 

This increased investment, across-the-board, will ensure a sustainable future for an Garda Síochána and equip it to meet the realities and challenges of 21st century policing and security.

 

In addition this investment will be vital to supporting and underpinning the new Transformation Programme and Anti-Crime Strategy currently being finalised by Garda Commissioner Noirín O'Sullivan.


This brings me to the theme of reform. Reform driven by criticism of the management and oversight of policing services in this State. And, indeed, of the culture of An Garda Síochána.

 

Garda culture doesn't start or stop with the Commissioner or the top management. It is matter for us all: the Government, the Department, the police service, the Public; and going forward the Policing Authority.

 

It is a matter for all us to work together:

· to address criticisms;

· to tackle the failings;

· to restore public confidence in policing; and

· to ensure morale and support the professional work of the men and women of An Garda Síochána.

 

That's how I see it. That's how I want it done. I believe that's how the Commissioner sees it and wants it done, too.

 

But it doesn't stop there. If we're re-imagining the service, we must re-imagine positively, rather than simply set regulations and regulators in place to forbid, to excise, to punish. That's not how to build a strong, respectful police service.

 

The new Policing Authority has a function in this regard. I would not wish it to be seen as focussing on failure only. I would hope it would also focus on what An Garda Síochána is doing right. Because it is through the repetition of good habits that you build a healthy culture, and it is through the recognition of excellence that excellence becomes general.

 

It's wonderful to read in media positive reports of exceptional Garda work - as happened recently, be it regarding high-profile investigations and successful prosecutions; or successful major disruption to drugs trades. All positives.

 

I'm just thinking aloud here -- I wonder if we have an adequate method of capturing those inside the system, so that we can acknowledge and build on exceptionally good work?

 

We've published the General Scheme of the Garda Síochána (Amendment) Bill 2014 providing for the establishment of the new independent Policing Authority. The Authority will be an independent new vehicle for public accountability, while driving reforms of policing systems and practices. Ms Josephine Feehily is Chair-designate. I will publish the legislation in May.

 

We have enacted legislation strengthen the role and remit the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC).

 

Regulation is pivotal. It's also relatively new in this country - and takes time and resources. I'm conscious of the burden on your members caused by complaints to GSOC and I plan to work with the Commissioner and GSOC to find ways to ease that burden.

 

In particular, I am discussing with GSOC and the Garda Commissioner whether a way can be found, that is fair to complainants and Gardaí, for speedier resolution of less serious complaints. If a workable solution can be identified - and I am sure it can - it could significantly ease the investigative burden on Superintendents, and I would be happy to implement that solution through a change in the law or by agreement.

 

Now, let me look briefly at criticism of your members, particularly of named members of your association on the floor of the Dáil.

 

Parliamentary privilege exists for a very good reason. But with privilege comes a solemn responsibility. Whenever that responsibility is shirked, the public representative involved should be called on it.

 

Before I conclude I wish to refer to issue of burglaries; what I’m sure you will all agree is a most invasive crime

 

As of the end of 2014, Operation Fiacla has led to 11,688 arrests and 6,711 persons charged. As of February 2015. Operation Acer has led to 5,389 arrests, 2,746 charges and 1,087 convictions for burglary in the Dublin area. I commend all Gardaí for this very impressive policing response.

 

Going forward I know that the Commissioner is working on a new Anti-Crime Strategy which will include updated operational responses to the issue of burglaries.

 

However I have been acutely aware, including listening to on-the-ground feedback from your members, that a broader criminal justice response is also required, particularly in terms of bail and sentencing for repeat burglars.

 

Earlier today, the Cabinet agreed to my proposals for a new Criminal Justice (Burglary of a Dwelling) Bill.

 

Firstly, the Bill will provide that a previous conviction for domestic burglary coupled with two or more pending charges shall be evidence of a likelihood to commit further domestic burglaries; and the bill will therefore allow a court to refuse bail on that ground.

 

Secondly, the Bill will require that any sentence of imprisonment for a second domestic burglary must be consecutive to any sentence of imprisonment for any other domestic burglary committed in the six months prior to or after the second sentenced offence.

 

I hope these legislative measures will strengthen our collective response to burglary; help keep repeat offenders off the streets; and provide greater protection for homeowners.

 

Mr President, the increase in investment, the re-starting of recruitment and introduction of reforms on my watch are intended to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the Garda Síochána and of each member of the organisation be they a full time sworn member, a member of the Garda Reserve or a member of the civilian staff.

 

A service like An Garda Síochána is entitled to two things: pride in its past and confidence in its future. I'm committed to both.

 

Thank you again Mr. President for your welcome. I wish you every success in your conference and I look forward to meeting you again in the near future to continue our discussions on areas of mutual concern.

 

ENDS