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Garda Commissioner, Minister Flanagan, distinguished guests and – our special guests of honour – our new Gardaí and your families, friends and loved ones.
These passing out ceremonies are solemn moments in the life of our State. You are our guardians of the peace and our defenders of law and order, and, at crucial times, role models in our society.
Today the State is entrusting you to protect and serve our citizens, our communities, and our country. So thank you for taking on this great responsibility.
Since I became Taoiseach two-and-a-half years ago 2,000 new Gardaí have attested, including all of you today. I believe it is the visible presence of Gardaí on the streets and in our communities that reassures the public and deters crime.
Today we have over 14,300 Gardaí on our streets - that’s more than for a very long time - aided by 2,900 Garda staff nationwide. These numbers are increasing and our ambition is to reach a total workforce of 21,000 by 2021 and we’re on target to do this.
Next year we will see unprecedented Government investment in the Gardaí with a budget of €1.88 billion because you are a growing and an expanding organisation and so much in our society depends on you.
Crime is an insidious threat to our society and way of life and organised crime is a clear and present threat to our State. Communities feel under threat by some actions by a small minority in border counties and by gang murders in Dublin and other parts of the
The Government has zero tolerance for lawlessness and disorder and we will fight it with everything we have.
Here I want to pay tribute to the Commissioner for his vision, experience and determination as he leads the force into a new era.
Decisive action is being taken, and I welcome the collaboration that has taken place between An Garda Síochána and the PSNI regarding incidents involving Quinn Industrial Holdings, including the establishment of the first ever Joint Investigation Team with the PSNI involving Eurojust.
The Commissioner has also assigned additional resources to the specialist units that come within the ambit of Special Crime Operations, including the Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau (GNDOCB).
The Commissioner’s leadership – and the work of our brave Gardaí – in fighting crime is restoring trust and confidence and providing hope.
I want to reassure people that the number of murders, manslaughters and death threats is down by 40% on this time last year. Murders down by 25%. The number of burglaries is also down. So you are having significant success in combating the most serious
forms of crime.
As we know, Ireland is an increasingly diverse society.
I believe the make-up of our politics, civil service, Defence Forces and Gardaí should reflect and resemble the modern Ireland, the Republic, all around us.
It is good that the recent Garda recruitment campaign was advertised in 14 different languages. We want our new recruits to have diverse backgrounds, and also different skills.
So, today I am asking the Commissioner to set an objective for encouraging more people from minority backgrounds into the Gardaí. Our role models should reflect who we are as a society, and the same is true of our Gardaí.
As our society becomes more diverse we also need to protect our communities from racism and xenophobia. Ireland must be a safe and secure place for all.
I know you know that equality, diversity, integration and human rights are integral parts of good policing. This is reflected in your outreach and interaction within local communities as well as in your new uniforms, and show how much our society is changing.
I’ll conclude with an observation.
Your best days as a Garda will almost certainly be the times when you are helping someone through their worst.
Lead by example in the communities you serve, show respect for others, and act with compassion, credibility and courage.
Best of luck in your careers, and have a great day.