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 Header Item Water and Sewerage Schemes Expenditure (Continued)
 Header Item Garda Deployment

Wednesday, 20 February 2019

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 979 No. 6

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Darragh O'Brien: Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien] I am also calling for those responsible to halt now and look at it before we have a situation like what has happened at St. James's Hospital where the State has run away with itself and wasted €1.4 billion or €1.5 billion that was not actually required. Will the Minister of State ask officials within the Department and Irish Water to give us the exact spend to date on the project and details of the estimated cost of delivery?

Deputy Damien English: Information on Damien English Zoom on Damien English I am mindful that the Deputy was probably chatting to the Leas-Cheann Comhairle when I outlined the position. I do not have the actual planning costs that he is looking for. What happens is Irish Water is given an envelope of funding to deliver the project. It is monitored through the Irish Water strategic plan which is presented to the Government and the regulator. I know from dealing with the regulator and different utility organisations that have brought forward proposals during the years that regulators are fairly strict when it comes to costs which they monitor quite well. Often they reduce the initial asking costs also. There is a fairly good system and protocol in place to deal with that aspect.

The Deputy is looking for particular figures. I will see if I can get them for him from Irish Water. It is the body responsible and it is not something the Department deals with on a day to day basis. Irish Water has statutory responsibility for planning and decision-making on the type of project that will proceed.

The Deputy has raised questions about whether this is the best way to proceed with the treatment facility. That is something we can certainly look into for him. I am not familiar with the details, but I will certainly get the details because, to be honest, the Deputy has raised my interest in the matter now.

It is also part of the planning process Irish Water is going through. I have attended many oral hearings during the years. The details will be dealt with and come out. It is an important part of the decision-making process. Often on a project of this nature the first step is for the organisation responsible to prove that the project is necessary and that there is no better way of doing something. Irish Water will be given the job to use taxpayers' money effectively to ensure the best treatment facilities are built to the highest standards and available within a certain budget. The company will have to manage that process and ensure value for money, as well as ensuring the best environmental decision is made. I presume it will all be teased out during the oral hearing and the planning process. If there is any information I can obtain for the Deputy in the meantime, I will get it. I will be happy to do so.

Garda Deployment

Deputy Michael McGrath: Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath I assume the Minister of State at the Department of Justice and Equality, Deputy Stanton, is taking this matter. As a Deputy from Cork, he will be familiar with the constituency I represent – Cork South-Central. It is primarily an urban constituency and takes in the south side of Cork city. It includes some large suburbs that are growing rapidly such as Douglas, Carrigaline and Passage West.

The Garda district headquarters is located in Togher. It is the only 24-hour station in the Garda district. When the other Garda stations in the district are closed - that happens to be most of the time - all telephone calls are diverted to Togher Garda station. Stations in the other densely populated parts of the constituency such as Carrigaline and Douglas Garda stations have limited opening hours. They are not always open, even during the designated hours when they are meant to be open. That is because the gardaí who are on duty and meant to be in the station may be called away to an incident elsewhere in the district.

The general public draws confidence from a Garda station being open, ideally on a 24/7 basis. Garda management often tells me that it prefers to use resources for patrolling, rather than having gardaí within a station. I accept that is an operational decision for Garda management. However, I absolutely believe we need longer station opening hours within the Togher district in the main population areas and the suburbs about which I have spoken.

In the area I represent there have been a spate of burglaries. We have had organised gangs roaming through housing estates checking to see if cars are unlocked. If they are, they are stealing whatever they can from them. There has been damage caused to private and public property such as playgrounds in the area. Many people have captured footage on their private closed circuit television systems of people trying to open their vehicles or walking around to the side or the back of homes. A serious assault took place on the main street of Carrigaline last Saturday night and a man was seriously injured. I wish him well in his recovery. Many people have since been in touch to express real concern about the lack of a Garda presence in the area.

Garda management openly tells me that it simply does not have the resources to provide foot patrols. The days of gardaí walking along the streets in my area and perhaps elsewhere throughout the country seem to be gone. In Carrigaline where I live there is one community garda who is visible and out and about a good deal. The other gardaí simply do not have the time or resources to do so. They are stretched to breaking point. This has had a direct impact on morale within the force.

The issue of resources is key. Let us consider Carrigaline as an example. There are five units with two members each. There are three detective gardaí and three sergeants. On any given weekend night one unit of two gardaí may be serving the town. The reality is that they could be called away at any point. Frequently they are called away to another part of the Garda district to deal with an incident. We could as a result actually have no Garda presence within the town. We absolutely need longer station opening hours and more gardaí. People should not have to call to a Garda station on multiple occasions to have a form signed, yet that is the practice in my area which is rapidly expanding and experiencing high population growth.

I understand a new policing divisional model is being prepared. Extra resources have been requested for the area by Garda management. The Minister of State is the person responsible. I call on him to take up the issue with Garda management - the top brass within the Garda - and deliver extra resources to the area.

Minister of State at the Department of Justice and Equality (Deputy David Stanton): Information on David Stanton Zoom on David Stanton I thank the Deputy for raising this matter. I apologise on behalf of the Minister for Justice and Equality who is spending a good deal of time in the Seanad dealing with the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill. He asked me to stand in for him because he was unsure whether he would be able to make it and did not wish to delay proceedings. He has asked me to reiterate to the House that the deployment of Garda resources, including personnel, to specific areas is solely the responsibility of the Garda Commissioner and his management team. I imagine the Deputy appreciates this and that we can all appreciate we cannot interfere with that decision in any way.

The Commissioner has spoken publicly about issues such as protecting the most vulnerable. He has highlighted that his priority is a policing model that will provide the best outcomes for communities. The distribution of Garda resources is constantly monitored and a distribution model is used that takes into account all relevant factors, including population, crime trends and overall policing needs at local level. It is then a matter for the divisional chief superintendent to determine the optimum distribution of duties among the personnel available to him or her, having regard to the profile of the area and its specific needs. This applies equally in both rural and urban areas. I imagine the Commissioner and his management team will be noting what is said in this debate in the Chamber.

I emphasise that is not appropriate to simply determine the allocation of Garda resources on the basis of population size alone. This fails to take account of, among other things, the fact that crime levels and types can vary significantly in communities of similar population size. The Deputy will appreciate that an increase in the opening hours of any Garda station would necessitate the deployment of additional Garda personnel to indoor administrative duties. These gardaí may be employed more effectively on outdoor policing duties. The Deputy alluded to this point in his contribution.

The Minister has advised that the matter of opening hours of sub-district stations is subject to continual review and alteration by Garda management in the context of policing priorities and the resources available. The Commissioner has informed the Minister that on 31 January, the latest date for which figures are readily available, the strength of the Cork city division was 703, with 128 gardaí assigned to the Togher Garda district. There are also 38 Garda reserves and 80 civilians attached to the division. When appropriate, the work of local gardaí is supported by a number of Garda national units such as the Garda National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, the armed support units, the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau and the Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau.

Since the reopening of the Garda College in September 2014, almost 2,400 recruits have attested as members of An Garda Síochána and been assigned to mainstream duties nationwide. A total of 62 were assigned to the Cork city division, including 15 probationer gardaí assigned to Togher Garda station. The Commissioner has informed the Minister that it is his intention to recruit a total of 600 trainee gardaí in 2019, with a net total of 600 Garda staff. The recruitment of the additional Garda staff will allow the Commissioner to redeploy this year a further 500 fully trained gardaí from administrative duties to the front-line duties for which they were trained. The injection of this large number of experienced officers into the field, with the new recruits, will be beneficial in protecting communities.

The Commissioner has been provided with an additional €100 million in 2019, bringing his total budget to almost €1.8 billion. This substantial investment will allow the accelerated recruitment programme to continue in tandem with the deployment of new and leading edge technology to support front-line gardaí in carrying out their work in delivering a visible, effective and responsive police service to communities across all Garda divisions, including the Cork city division in 2019 and beyond.

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