Address by the Minister for Justice, Heather Humphreys TD
Association of Garda Superintendents
33rd Annual Delegate Conference
13 October 2021
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President, Commissioner and Delegates, Good afternoon.
I am delighted to be invited here today for this important annual function of your association.
I know that, due to public health restrictions, last year’s conference could not go ahead.
I am glad that today’s event was possible as we continue to progress from public health restrictions.
This is my first time to address your conference and it is an honour for me to do so.
I am glad to get the opportunity to speak directly to you, and of course acknowledge the work that you do for every person in Ireland.
All of us in this room share the same objective: to ensure An Garda Síochána is a world class policing service.
We all take justified pride in the work of An Garda Síochána:
In protecting of our communities,
In supporting victims of crime and helping people in need
In strengthening the security of our State
In ensuring crime does not pay and stopping criminals from spreading misery
As Minister for Justice, I see the fantastic work undertaken daily by An Garda Síochána and the value of the leadership role you play as superintendents.
I would like to thank you all for your dedicated public service, particularly over the past challenging 18 months.
I want to commend you for your leadership – you have led our Garda members through a very difficult period and have provided a crucial frontline service to all of our communities throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
Your tireless efforts have helped to keep our country safe.
Thank you for your dedication and loyalty to the people of Ireland. Your contribution to this country has not gone unnoticed.
Service in An Garda Síochána is service to the community and the State.
You exemplify the highest standards and expectations of public service.
I am extremely proud of the work that you, and all Garda members, do for this country.
Budget 2022 shows the commitment of the Government to strengthening An Garda Síochána and ensuring it has the proper resources to be an effective and trusted policing service.
As you will have heard yesterday, An Garda Síochána has been allocated a budget of over €2billion for 2022.
Although the pandemic slowed down recruitment for a short period, this level of funding will enable the sustained, ongoing recruitment of Garda members and staff.
While COVID caused the temporary closure of the Garda training college at Templemore, I am delighted that the recruitment of trainees has resumed during 2021, and the funding announced today will allow us to regain ground lost during COVID and recruit 800 Gardaí in 2022.
Moving uniformed Gardaí from administrative roles will continue next year thus allowing Gardaí to focus on frontline policing duties, supported by the recruitment of 400 additional Garda staff.
The Budget announcement means that we will meet and beat our target of a 15,000 strong Garda Síochána.
I believe that, in its centenary year, An Garda Síochána will be stronger than it has ever been.
The Garda Building Programme has an allocation of €39 million for 2022.
This will facilitate the completion of the replacement facility for the Harcourt Court complex currently being constructed at Military Road in Dublin as well as continued investment in the Garda Síochána Building and Refurbishment Programme.
I am also glad to have secured the additional funding announced yesterday that will also support investment in ICT, mobile devices and training supports to help all Gardaí do their jobs effectively.
Regarding the Garda fleet and recognising the need to be visible and accessible in communities but also conscious of taking proactive actions to reduce their carbon footprint the Gardaí will purchase an additional 100 mountain bikes and increase the numbers of electric vehicles as part of an overall fleet management strategy.
The value of high visibility policing has been shown time and again.
It enhances the bond between An Garda Síochána and the communities you serve, a bond that is stronger than ever.We want everyone to be safe and to feel safe in their own community.
That is a commitment, we will back with funding and with new laws.
We are coming towards the centenary of the formation of An Garda Síochána.
Over the past century, our Garda members have shown valiant dedication to preserving law, order and the security of the State.
This service to the country will be rightly recognised and celebrated in 2022.
An Garda Síochána has provided a crucial frontline service throughout the most challenging years in the history of the State.
The dedication and loyalty that Garda members have shown has never faltered and I would like to thank all Gardaí, who currently or have previously served, for your contribution to our country.
In recognition of the centenary this Budget also includes a specific once-off allocation of €1.5 million to mark the centenary of An Garda Síochána in 2022.and I wish you well as you plan your centenary events.
Policing Security and Community Safety Bill – Policing Reform
Over the past one hundred years, the nature of policing and the challenges that police services must address have evolved to a significant degree.
At the outset it is important to acknowledge that significant reforms have taken place in the Garda Síochána over the past number of years, and you as Superintendents have been instrumental in these reforms.
A central objective for the government is to deliver a new approach to policing, security and community safety.
I want to increase police visibility in communities and focus on preventing crime and harm.
The recent publication of the general scheme of the landmark Policing, Security and Community Safety Bill is a major milestone in the ongoing process of reform under the implementation of the recommendations from the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland (CoFPI).
This Bill is about ensuring every community has a right both to be safe and, importantly, to feel safe.
It will improve the performance and accountability of our policing and security services, and support the human rights of all people throughout Ireland.
The Bill provides for a key principle from the CoFPI report – preventing crime and making our communities safer does not rest only with An Garda Síochána and my Department.
A ‘whole of government’ approach to crime prevention and safety will ensure that the Departments and agencies responsible for health and social services, education authorities and local authorities, the Gardaí and the wider community will work together to address this.
Central to this vision is a professional, ethical, modern and effective police and security service that is efficiently managed, cost-effective, properly trained and equipped, and is clearly accountable.
We look to you as managers to implement not only the day-to-day work of An Garda Síochána, but also the policing reforms that are being brought forward through the Policing, Security and Community Safety Bill.
The intention of the new law is to provide for the most wide ranging and coherent reform of policing in a generation by improving the performance and accountability of our policing and security services.
Significant organisational reform, including institutional change, culture and work practices, is always challenging but the aim is to strengthen external oversight of An Garda Síochána and internal governance within the organisation.
CoFPI was clear on the need to strengthen and consolidate independent external oversight of policing and security, and to enhance the internal governance of An Garda Síochána to manage itself effectively, deliver reform and improve outcomes for communities.
I have met with the Commissioner to discuss how this Bill will achieve this objective:
Firstly, the new Policing and Community Safety Authority will be focused exclusively on providing robust independent oversight.
It will merge the functions of the Policing Authority and the Garda Inspectorate, building on their work, while reducing the overall number of oversight bodies.
Secondly, the Bill will greatly strengthen the independent oversight of the handling and investigation of allegations of wrongdoing by Garda personnel.
This will be done by expanding the remit of the Ombudsman and by overhauling its investigation procedures to support timely and effective resolution of complaints and investigations that is in the interests of complainants, members of An Garda Síochána and the wider public.
The new procedures will respect and vindicate the rights of all to fair procedures and natural justice.
Thirdly, the Garda Board, a corporate governance standard and a common feature across public service bodies, will support the Garda Commissioner in running the organisation and hold him to account.
Finally, as recommended by CoFPI, the Bill makes the operational independence of the Garda Commissioner explicit for the first time.
In developing the draft Bill, the Department of Justice has consulted extensively over the last two years and will continue to do so as the Bill progresses.
The Department values the input of all stakeholders, particularly those leading reform, and has discussed this in detail with the Commissioner and his senior team, with GSOC, the Policing Authority and the Garda Inspectorate.
I have also discussed it with the Garda Commissioner in recent weeks and will continue to do so.
We discussed the Commissioner’s concerns and agreed that teams from my Department and An Garda Síochána would engage intensively on the Bill.
I note that your Association and others are engaging with the pre-legislative scrutiny process commenced by the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice and I look forward to receiving the Committee’s report.
Of course, we are happy to listen to all the views which will be expressed as the bill moves through the legislative process.
I am pleased that the proposed Bill maintains the momentum and supports the widespread policing reform being advanced by the Government under ‘A Policing Service for our Future’
Indeed, this Bill will represent the most wide ranging and coherent reform of policing in a generation.
I appreciate that change is not always easy.
It is of course human nature to be wary of it.
I believe that these reforms are grounded in clear rationale – the implementation of which are not just in the best interests of the public, but also in the best interests of An Garda Síochána as a whole and of each member who serves in it.
I do realise you are the people who have to work within any new structure and I do feel it is important we listen carefully to your concerns and I welcome your offer to engage positively.
You, as Superintendents, are central to the work of the organisation.
Your experience and expertise is heavily relied upon – the skills that you have developed throughout your careers are invaluable to An Garda Síochána.
You deliver not only the policing services required by society, but also deliver the changes in the policing service.
Your support and implementation to deliver a more efficient and effective policing service for everyone is crucial.
I am very conscious of the hazardous nature of the work undertaken by members of An Garda Síochána and the risks they undertake to protect our communities from harm.
It is natural on days like today when you come together that you remember former colleagues.
I was honoured and moved to attend the Garda Memorial Day in Dublin Castle earlier this year.
Garda members put the welfare and safety of others ahead of themselves, and take on the burden of protecting us from danger.
The daily difficulties that Gardaí face cannot be overstated and it is important that we recognise both the physical and mental challenges which this brings.
I think we also need to acknowledge the sacrifices made by the families of Gardaí.
I can only imagine how difficult it must be to love and worry for someone whose job exposes them to danger, or to see the stress and pain that situations may bring.
The Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland was very clear that An Garda Síochána needed to take better care of its employees.
I know the Garda Commissioner also shares with me such concerns regarding wellness and having in place appropriate supports.
The wellbeing of our Gardaí is paramount and I welcome the recent publication of the new Garda Health and Wellbeing Strategy.
This strategy, which will run for the next three years, will help support the health and wellbeing among all Garda members and staff.
This Strategy was informed by a Health Needs Assessment Survey.
That survey provided crucial qualitative data to inform the new Strategy.
All workplaces are challenging but there is no doubt that your profession has very unique demands.
I encourage you to engage with the Commissioner on his proposals and take a collaborative approach across the organisation in supporting the well-being of all.
I am very aware that as an Association you have not yet signed up to Building Momentum – the national pay agreement.
Over 350,000 public servants are this month receiving pay increases under Building Momentum.
I do not want to see a situation where you and your Members are left behind.
I want to see you rewarded for your hard work, commitment and leadership especially over the last 18 months where you have been an essential part of the national response to the pandemic.
I understand the frustration you feel regarding progress on the Availability Allowance.
I can assure you I and Minister Michael McGrath are committed to finding a resolution to the matter. Only today I spoke to him again.
My officials continue to engage with colleagues in the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and Garda Management.
I know they are engaging with you and they will continue to do so in a sincere effort to move the position forward in a positive manner.
This situation will only be resolved by a genuine commitment to engagement by all parties.
To conclude, I would like to thank you all again for the invitation to address you today and reiterate my appreciation for the work that you do.
Policing in Ireland is facing changes which, I believe, will redefine An Garda Síochána as an organisation.
You, as Superintendents, provide leadership and essential management in respect of a vital public service for which the Government and people of Ireland are very grateful.
The task in providing leadership and direction in these challenging times is understood by myself and by the Government as a whole and, on their behalf, I wish to thank you for your valued work.
Thank you again, and thank you for having me here today.