Check Against Delivery
I would like to thank the Deputy for raising this matter.
The Government is committed to ensuring Ireland is a safe and secure place for all and the well-being of all our communities is a priority for me as Minister for Justice and Equality. I am confident that all Deputies here today share the same desire to see members of the public confident and secure in going about their lives.
I am aware of the incidents the Deputy is referring to, particularly the shooting which took place this past weekend. I have condemned this wanton violence and I again call on everyone to pass on any information they may have, however small, by calling Coolock Garda Station or alternatively by calling the Garda Confidential Line on 1800 666 111.
Deputies will appreciate that I cannot comment on that particular investigation or any other ongoing investigations- but I can assure the Deputy that we are making progress in tackling drugs and organised crime.
Because I share the Deputy's concern about the destructive impact which drugs and crime related to drugs can have on communities. And the Government fully agrees too on the importance of tackling such behaviour effectively.
Before addressing the Garda resources in the area, I want to take the opportunity to highlight that action is being taken on a range of levels to address these matters. Because while policing is of course a key issue, we cannot address this as a policing matter alone.
Government recognises that there is a need to address drug-related offending in a strategic multi-agency way. Our policy in relation to drug and alcohol misuse is set out in Ireland’s National Drug Strategy, ‘Reducing Harm, Supporting Recovery’. This is a health led response to drug and alcohol use in Ireland 2017-2025 and represents a whole-of-Government response to the problem of drug and alcohol use.
I would particularly note that the Strategy is unique among national drugs strategies across EU Member States in recognising the need to address drug-related debt intimidation at a community level.
It is also important to note that the budget provided for Garda Youth Diversion Projects has been steadily increased over the last number of years - from €11.3million in 2015 to €15.3m in 2019. This provision includes funding to support the operation of 106 Garda Youth Diversion Projects currently. These important projects are community-based multi-agency crime prevention initiatives which primarily seek to divert young people who have become involved in crime/anti-social behaviour.
In addition, my colleague Minister of State David Stanton, is currently developing a new Youth Justice Strategy with the assistance of an interdepartmental and interagency steering group. The new Strategy will address the full range of issues relevant to youth justice, including how best to prevent young people getting involved in criminal activity, including drug dealing.
These actions play an important preventative role and are showing good results over time, coupled with Garda enforcement action.
In terms of that Garda response, we can look to facts on the successes which are being achieved.
The Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau (GNDOCB) continues to have significant success in tackling these issues. I understand from the Commissioner that since its establishment in March 2015, the Bureau has been responsible for:
• Seizure of controlled substances with an estimated street value of approximately €167 million;
• Seizure of cash, believed to be the proceeds of crime, to a value of €10 million; and
• Seizure of 108 firearms and over 3,000 rounds of ammunition;
In 2019 alone, the Garda Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau has been responsible for seizure of controlled substances to the value of €20 million; cash believed to be the proceeds of crime to the value of €2.4 million; and 17 firearms.
I would mention Operation Hybrid in particular. This is an important Garda operation which has seen substantial progress in addressing organised crime, including drug crime, across Dublin. This operation has seen multiple patrols and checkpoints being conducted in the Coolock area.
And so I think we should acknowledge that Gardaí are making significant efforts to deal with these issues.
In doing so, Gardaí have the support of the Government in the form of record investment including a budget for 2019 of €1.76 billion, increasing further to an unprecedented €1.88 billion in 2020. This ongoing investment is being provided to enable the continued growth of An Garda Síochána, towards the goal of a Garda workforce of 21,000 by 2121.
And significant progress is being made towards this goal – we now have approximately 14,200 Garda members, supported by over 2,900 Garda staff. Almost another 200 Garda members will attest tomorrow from the Garda College.
And this sustained recruitment will continue. An Garda Síochána’s budget for 2020 is of a level which will allow further recruitment of up to 700 Gardaí as well as additional Garda staff, depending on the Commissioner’s decision on how best to balance the number of Gardaí and Garda staff.
The key point however is that by law, it is the Commissioner who is responsible for managing and controlling An Garda Síochána. He and his management team are also responsible for the allocation and efficient use of Garda resources. This includes decisions regarding the allocation and deployment of Garda personnel nationwide.
As Minister, I have no role in these matters. That is a matter of law – and it is entirely appropriate that this is the case. The Commissioner and his management team are in the best position to make the expert judgments necessary about where to place Garda resources. These decisions are operational issues, for policing experts, and it would not be appropriate for me as Minister or indeed for this House to substitute our judgment for theirs. The policing expertise of the Commissioner and his management team is key to the delivery of the best possible service to communities nationwide, including the area referred to by the Deputy.
Coolock is located in the DMR Northern Division. The Commissioner has informed me that, at the end of 2015, the DMR North Division had a total of 668 Gardaí, supported by 44 Garda staff. By comparison, as of the end of October 2019, the Division had 741 Gardaí, supported by 61 Garda staff..
Specifically in Coolock, the Garda workforce has increased from 103 Gardaí and 11 staff in December 2015; up to 117 Gardaí and 16 Staff respectively as of 31 October 2019.
This means that an additional 73 Gardaí have been allocated to the DMR Northern Division since the start of 2016, alongside a 38% increase in Garda staff over the same period. This allows for the redeployment of addition experienced Gardaí from administrative to operational policing duties where their training and policing expertise can be used to best effect, in addition to the new Gardaí assigned to the Division.
Taken together, it would be fair to say rise in both Garda members and staff numbers represents a real increase in operational policing hours within the DMR North Division.
And these numbers are still increasing - I understand that the Garda Commissioner intends to allocate additional Garda resources to the DMR North Division from the attestation scheduled for tomorrow.
I hope that Deputies can appreciate that these decisions – which of course I fully support – are decisions for Garda management. I trust in the Commissioner and his team to continue to make operational decisions on the best use of the record resources we are providing, in the interests of all our communities nationwide.