Check Against Delivery
Commissioner, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, and new members of An Garda Síochána.
It is always a pleasure to come here to Templemore to welcome new members of An Garda Síochána.
It is one of the great privileges of my job to be a part of the collective celebration of what is such an important day for the State as well as a great individual achievement for each of you.
You deserve sincere congratulations for completing 32 weeks of training here in the Garda College.
To have made it through is testament to your determination, resilience and commitment to dedicating your life to the service of the State. These are strengths that will stand you in good stead over the course of your careers.
It is also a great credit to your families and a proud day for everyone who has supported you along the way. I am also delighted to note that today’s events are being livestreamed on social media which means that, no doubt, many more people are joining us virtually. I understand that over 80,000 people tuned into the November ceremony on the web. This engagement is a great way to reach out to communities. And, on an individual level, it also means that family and friends who could not be here with you today can share in this important occasion.
It is reassuring that the Garda Síochána continues to attract, as it has done since the foundation of the State, people of the highest calibre from many different backgrounds who are prepared to commit themselves to the service of the State and its citizens.
Last year, for the first time since 2011, the number of Gardaí reached over 14,000. The Government has provided funding in this year’s Budget to sustain continued recruitment into An Garda Síochána. I welcome the Commissioner’s decision to recruit 600 trainees in 2019 as well as the plan to recruit sufficient numbers of Garda staff to enable the redeployment of a further 500 trained Gardaí to frontline policing duties by the end of this year.
You will all be aware that the Commission on the Future of Policing published its report last September. This wide ranging report has been accepted by Government and is being implemented.
I am confident it will make the job of a Garda more effective and visible in our communities ensuring that An Garda Síochána grows as a modern organisation fully supported in its many complex roles. The plan approved by Government in December is designed to ensure that An Garda Síochána continues to serve the people of Ireland in line with your proud tradition.
I am privileged, as Minister for Justice and Equality, to play a role in influencing that change, but it is ultimately you, the future generation, who will embody the changed organisation.
I hope that you embrace that challenge, and take every opportunity you can to leave your positive mark on the organisation you are a part and the community you will serve.
One of An Garda Síochána’s greatest strengths is not simply that you are based in the community, but that you are of the community. This connection to community is what has distinguished An Garda Síochána from other police services since its foundation. It is part of the reason that, despite the difficulties of recent years, the service – and it is a service - continues to enjoy the support and confidence of the vast majority of the public.
As you know, today is International Women’s Day and I’m proud to say I’ve come from a meeting of the Government this morning at which we ratified the Istanbul Convention which commits Ireland to preventing and detecting all forms of violence against women and domestic violence.
In order to ensure that An Garda Síochána has the most effective tools to do this, a suite of four separate pieces of legislation has been enacted over the past few years; effective risk assessment tools and specialist training have been developed for staff in all the relevant agencies including the Gardaí, along with the ongoing roll out of the specialist Divisional Protective Service Units. These measures mean we have a range of evidence based, effective tools in place to combat all forms of violence.
And things are changing for women inside the organisation too. 60 years ago this year - in July 1959 - 12 pioneering women joined An Garda Síochána as what were then known as ‘ban-gardaí’ out of a total of 400 recruits that year. It could not have been easy for those first women to enter such a male bastion but, in doing so, they opened the door for others to follow, including you new Gardaí today.
The number of female Gardaí has increased, particularly in the last decade with the percentage of women rising from 18.5% in 2006, to just under 27% this year, which I’m glad to say is above the European average. And look around you – there are 46 women passing out today.
I’m sure these strong numbers are in some part attributable to the visible positive role models in An Garda Síochána. The first female Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan had a long and distinguished career and the number of women at all levels has also increased significantly . That is really important because, as in any organisation, it is vital that women are also represented at all ranks, including civilian grades.
There is certainly more work to be done, and I want to see the diversity of An Garda Síochána increasing to reflect the twenty first century Ireland it serves. We all appreciate that to continue the organisation’s strong bond with the community, it is really important that An Garda Síochána reflects the diversity in every way of the communities it serves. In that context it is a great pleasure to welcome all you new members, whether male or female, LGBTI, born abroad or here in Ireland, and from every background, who are celebrating here today.
Ladies and gentlemen, new members of An Garda Síochána, can I finish by returning to the solemn declaration that you made this morning.
You have promised to “faithfully discharge the duties of a member of the Garda Síochána with fairness, integrity, regard for human rights, diligence and impartiality, upholding the Constitution and law and according equal respect to all people.”
Remember, every time that you put on the Garda uniform, that it is a privilege to be entrusted with the powers to discharge these duties.
I thank you once again for having the courage and the commitment to public service to sign up to this exciting and challenging career.
And, so without further ado, I wish you all the best of luck in the years to come. Thank you.