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Statement by Minister Flanagan on Policing operations in Drogheda and east Meath

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I would like to thank the Deputy for raising this matter.

Let me begin by condemning the violent loss of life that occurred on Monday last, 4 November, in Bettystown, Co Meath. An Garda Síochána is conducting a full investigation into this matter and Deputies will appreciate that as a result I am limited in what I can say.

However I would appeal to anyone with information on this matter to please contact An Garda Síochána at the incident room at Ashbourne Gard Station or using the Garda Confidential Line on 1800 666 111.

More generally, I also want to clearly say that I am very aware of the concerns of the people in the area referred to by the Deputy. Let me be clear - I can assure the people of Drogheda and East Meath that neither the Government nor An Garda Síochána will permit a small number of individuals to continue to put local communities in fear for their safety.

The Taoiseach and I visited Drogheda in May and we were both very impressed by the robust response which has been put in place by the Garda authorities in the region under Operation Stratus.

Operation Stratus consists of high visibility patrols and checkpoints, days of action and covert policing initiatives, targeting specific parties engaged in feud-related criminality. This operation is supported by Divisional and District uniformed and plain-clothes personnel, in particular:

o Roads Policing Unit o Community Engagement & Public Safety personnel

o Detective, Drugs & Crime Units o Garda National Drugs & Organised Crime Bureau

o Emergency Response Unit Gardaí have made important progress in tackling the threat of organised crime.

Gardaí also work closely with colleagues in other jurisdictions in investigating the supply of drugs and guns.

And I do want to remind Deputies that cooperation with other relevant agencies and and intelligence-led policing is producing significant results in the fight against organised criminality.

To take only one example just last week (Tuesday 29/10), Gardaí attached to the Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau intercepted a commercial haulage vehicle in Dundalk and recovered cannabis herb with an estimated value of €3.2 million, subject to analysis. Two men were arrested and investigations are continuing.

The Government has made unprecedented resources available to An Garda Síochána - €1.76 billion was allocated to the Garda vote for 2019, plus capital investment of €92 million this year. This represents a 50% increase in capital funding on 2018.

Provision for 2020 has been increased to €1.882 billion as well as capital investment of €116 million, which represents a further 26% increase.

And Garda numbers are increasing. We are on track for the Government’s target of an overall Garda workforce of 21,000 by 2021.

And so it is clear that An Garda Síochána has the full support of the Government in its ongoing work and we are providing record resources to enable it to perform this critical role.

The purpose of this unprecedented funding as well as Government’s support for reform is to ensure the best possible policing services are provided to communities nationwide, including in the area of Drogheda and East Meath referred to by the Deputy.

An Garda Síochána is a growing organisation. Garda deployments in all areas of the country, including the Northern region, have benefitted from increased Garda recruitment.

Over the past 3 years and due to Government funding, Garda strength in the Northern Region has increased to approx. 1,500. These figures include, for example, the 25 new Gardaí assigned to Drogheda by the Commissioner last June. In total, there are now more than 150 additional Gardaí deployed in the Northern Region compared to the position at the end of 2017.

These Gardaí are supported by approximately 160 Garda Staff (“civilians”) in the region, an increase of almost 35% over 3 years. This increase in Garda Staff means that Gardaí can be redeployed from administrative to operational policing duties where their expertise can be used to best effect.

Very significant financial resources have been made available by the Government to An Garda Síochána. The efficient use of those resources, including deployment of personnel, are matters which are by law for the Garda Commissioner.

I fully support him and the wider management team in An Garda Síochána in their tireless efforts to keep our communities safe, nationwide. I can assure Gardaí and the people of Drogheda and East Meath, as referred to by the Deputy, of the Government’s continuing support.