CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY

Topical Issue Debate

Minister of State David Stanton, Department of Justice and Equality

23 March 2017

The Policing Authority to oversee a review of both the boundaries of Garda districts and the dispersement of Garda stations in rural areas and in developing urban and suburban areas with a view to ensuring both an efficient and optimum geographical distribution of stations and minimal response times, including taking account of station closures since 2012

        

Deputy Michael D’Arcy

 

On behalf of the Tánaiste who, unfortunately, cannot be here today, I want to thank the Deputy for raising this important matter.

 

The Government has, in its Programme for a Partnership Government, recognised community policing as the embodiment of An Garda Síochána, providing a means of recognising that every community, both urban and rural, has its own concerns and expectations.  It commits the Government to ensuring a strong and visible police presence throughout the country in order to maintain and strengthen community engagement, provide reassurance to citizens and to deter crime.

 

A cornerstone of this commitment is the Government plan to achieve an overall Garda workforce of 21,000 personnel by 2021 comprising 15,000 Garda members, 2,000 Reserve members and 4,000 civilians.

 

This investment in personnel is complemented by substantial investment in resources across the board for An Garda Síochána. The Deputy will be aware of the significant resources that have been made available to An Garda Síochána under the Government's Capital Plan 2016 - 2021.  In particular, some €205 million in additional funding for Garda ICT and €46 million for new Garda vehicles has been allocated over the lifetime of the plan. This investment will facilitate the provision of more effective policing services and I have no doubt that the new resources now coming on stream will see an increase in Garda visibility in our communities.

 

Revisiting the decisions made to close Garda stations is also part of that commitment. In this context, the Tánaiste has requested the Garda Commissioner, while fully cognisant of her statutory functions, to identify 6 stations for reopening on a pilot basis to determine possible positive impacts that such openings will have on criminal activity, with special emphasis on burglaries, theft and public order.

 

The pilot will feed into the wider review being undertaken by the Garda Síochána Inspectorate, at the request of the Policing Authority, of the dispersal and use of resources available to An Garda Síochána in the delivery of policing services to local communities.

 

It is worth noting that on 19 July, the Government approved a Five Year Reform and High-level Workforce Plan for An Garda Síochána which addresses the implementation of both the agreed recommendations of the Garda Inspectorate report ‘Changing Policing in Ireland’ and the commitments in the Programme for Government aimed at increasing the visibility of An Garda Síochána. It was also agreed that the Garda Commissioner’s Modernisation and Renewal Programme 2016-2021 will be the vehicle this reform. The key structural change to the operation of the Gardaí will be the replacement of the current District model of policing with a Divisional model where responsibilities will be allocated on a functional rather than a geographical basis, subject to modifications to ensure that the close relationship with communities is maintained in large rural Divisions.

 

I understand that the Policing Authority has informed the Inspectorate that the review should take account of:

·    the changing environments in rural, developing urban and suburban areas;

·    the views of local communities;

·    the allocation to and deployment of Garda resources at the local policing level, including the use of the Garda Reserve, Garda facilities and Garda equipment; and

·    relevant recommendations made in previous Inspectorate reports.

It is clear that a comprehensive review is being envisaged by the Authority, including a consultative process with local communities.

 

I understand that the review should be completed within the first half of 2018 and the Tanaiste looks forward to receiving the report from the Authority in due course.