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[Oireachtas] Seanad: Commencement matters - Garda resources. (13 Jun 2018)

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Senator Lorraine Clifford-Lee: I thank the Minister. I know the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Flanagan, is engaged in the Oireachtas justice committee at the moment so I appreciate the Minister staying on to answer this question. I want to talk about the drugs unit in Balbriggan. The Garda district which is known as district Y covers most of north Fingal and includes the towns of Balbriggan, Skerries, Rush, Lusk and the rural areas of Naul and Garristown as well as a number of other areas.


Fingal is the fastest growing and youngest county in Ireland. North Fingal has seen significant increases in population in recent years and this is set to continue. Garda resources in Fingal were decimated over the period from 2010 to 2016 and were down 20% on what they should have been at that time. While I acknowledge that some extra gardaí have been allocated to the area in recent months, this does not go anywhere near the levels that would be considered adequate for the population size.


I also fear that Dublin city is being prioritised in terms of Garda resources ahead of Fingal when allocations are being considered. I am aware from my attendance at the justice committee before coming to the Chamber that an extra 200 gardaí are coming on stream this Friday. I would like to know if any of these are being allocated to district Y. In their recent report on crime figures to the Fingal joint policing committee, gardaí in Balbriggan have stated that the district's drug unit needs more resources and I am asking the Minister to ask the acting Garda Commissioner to give the Garda in Balbriggan the extra resources that are needed urgently. Instances of drug possession for sale or supply have risen by 20% in the first four months of this year compared with the same period last year. This is significant but detection rates have dropped. By detection rates I mean crimes that are either solved or went to court. They have fallen from 100% to 90% and this is a cause of serious concern. The Garda report to the joint policing committee blamed this fall in detection rates on the lack of adequate resources in the district which requires members of the drugs unit to go and assist other units to cover the policing service. It is clear that policing resources are stretched in the area.


There are a number of drugs gangs operating in north Fingal and communities need to be assured that the Garda can adequately tackle this type of crime. Rush Garda station was closed by the last Government and while this is earmarked for reopening there is no clear timeline for that and no clear commitment that extra gardaí will be allocated to the station if and when it eventually reopens. Some towns in north Fingal have no community garda who would prevent a lot of young people getting involved in drug crime in the first place. I call on the Minister to make it Government policy that Garda resources are allocated in terms of the population spread of the country and rapidly expanding populations like we have in north County Dublin would get priority when the extra resources are being allocated.


Deputy Richard Bruton: I thank Senator Clifford-Lee for raising this issue.

The Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Charles Flanagan, apologises for not being able to attend. He has provided data that show that the strength of the Dublin metropolitan region, north division, is 678, of whom 80 are assigned to Balbriggan Garda station. There are also 42 Garda reserves and 40 civilians attached to the division. The Minister has also provided information that shows that the divisional drugs unit has a strength of 224, of whom 19 are allocated to the Dublin metropolitan region, north division.

All gardaí have a responsibility in the prevention and detection of criminal activity, whether it be in the area of drug offences, crime or otherwise. The Minister wishes to assure the Senator that An Garda Síochána continues to proactively and resolutely tackle all forms of drug crime in the jurisdiction. In 2015 the Garda Commissioner established the Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau which brought together the organised crime unit and the Garda national drugs unit. The bureau leads the policing strategy for tackling drugs by way of demand and supply reduction strategies. In that regard, the bureau continues its policy of working with Garda divisional drugs units nationwide in tackling supply reduction at local level. This work is further supported by other national units, including the Criminal Assets Bureau, in targeting persons involved in the illicit sale and supply of drugs. The Minister has been informed that this approach allows for the co-ordinated use of Garda resources in tackling all forms of organised crime, including illicit drug activity nationwide.


We have seen unprecedented international co-operation between An Garda Síochána and policing services in other jurisdictions and this has led to important arrests and drug seizures. Underpinning all of these measures is the Government’s commitment to ensure a strong and visible police presence throughout the country. There have been 1,800 new recruits since the Garda College reopened, 140 of whom have been assigned to the Dublin metropolitan region, north division. Therefore, a significant allocation has come from the new recruits. The expansion is continuing and the target is to bring the overall Garda workforce up to 21,000, a net increase of 2,000. Apart from this, there is additional planning on the capital side to invest in technologies, the fleet and other modern, effective policing facilities.


The allocation to an individual station or division is the responsibility of the Garda Commissioner, not the Minister. The Garda Commissioner will have to decide the respective strength requirements in different parts of the Dublin metropolitan area. While I will bring the Senator's comments to the Minister's attention, I understand the Garda has to look in a broad sense at the needs of different Garda districts to ensure effective policing. Nonetheless, it is not a decision made by the Minister; ultimately, it is one made by the Garda Commissioners for operational reasons.


Senator Lorraine Clifford-Lee: I thank the Minister for the response. I note the figure of 1,800 recruits, 140 of whom have been assigned to the Dublin metropolitan area, north division. However, that represents only 7.7% of the new recruits, which is wholly inadequate in an area which is expanding as rapidly as north County Dublin. I hope more than 7.7% of the 200 recruits who are due to pass out on Friday will be allocated to the north division. I will continue to raise the issue in the House because communities in north County Dublin are worried that they are being left behind, while other areas are prioritised ahead of them.


Deputy Richard Bruton: Clearly, people will always cite statistics to suit their own case, but we have to bear in mind that the policing of north Dublin, as indicated in the reply, is influenced very much by the operation of the Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau. As indicated by the Minister, 140 extra gardaí have been involved in some of the special crime operations since 2017. Therefore, in allocating extra resources, the Garda Commissioner has to be aware of the balance to be struck between specialised units which have a broad remit and allocations within individual local areas. Ultimately, the Garda Commissioner makes these calls. While I can understand the Senator's comments and I am sure the Garda Commissioner will heed them, it is not a decision made by the Minister; it is made by the Garda Commissioner for operational reasons.


An Cathaoirleach: I do not think there is a Garda division that would not like more gardaí. However, the Senator has made her case. I thank the Minister.

Item Type
Dail Debates
Publication Type
Drug Type
Substances (not alcohol/tobacco)
Intervention Type
Crime prevention, Policy
13 June 2018

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