Home > Dáil Éireann debate. Topical Issue debate - An Garda Síochána.

[Oireachtas] Dáil Éireann debate. Topical Issue debate - An Garda Síochána. (01 Mar 2022)

External website: https://www.oireachtas.ie/en/debates/debate/dail/2...

Deputy Dessie Ellis: Táim buíoch go bhfuil mé ábalta labhairt ar an ngá atá le hacmhainní breise Garda i bhFionnghlas. 

As the Minister of State, Deputy Browne, might be aware, I represent the constituency of Dublin North-West, which encompasses Finglas, Ballymun, Santry, Whitehall, Meakstown, Glasnevin and parts of Beaumont. Part of my constituency lies within the Garda divisional area known as the K district, which comprises Finglas, Cabra and Blanchardstown. This Garda divisional area covers a district with a population of about 160,000 people. Finglas is a fast-growing area with a population of about 40,000. 

It is clear from an analysis of Garda resources from throughout the country that there is significant variation in the numbers of gardaí relative to the size of communities. An analysis of Garda manpower throughout the country's 28 divisions highlights wide variations in the strength of the force relative to the size of communities, creating an obvious imbalance in the way these communities are being served. For example, Limerick city, with a population of approximately 95,000, has 377 gardaí serving the community. Finglas, by contrast, which has a population of 40,000, has approximately 90 gardaí covering the area. As can be seen immediately, there is a glaring imbalance in respect of available Garda resources in this densely populated area. Issues that have come to national attention involve illegal drug-related activity, gang-related criminality and feuding among gangs, which are greatly affecting the community of Finglas and impacting on those going about their daily business. Much of this activity is confined to a small number of people in a small number of areas, but it has the effect of creating a climate of fear for families, and especially the elderly, in sections of the community. 

People impacted by this criminal activity are often afraid to go to the Garda and report these matters for fear of reprisals from these gangs or by those involved in criminality. 

For a number of years, there has been a number of individuals associated with what is known locally as the "Gucci Gang". People associated with this criminal gang have been involved in horrific activity that has shocked the community with shootings, kidnappings and beatings. There is also ongoing issues with people from Finglas and Cabra organising fights on Facebook, which have resulted in serious injuries. In the light of this criminal activity, I commend the efforts of local community activists and others to draw young people away from this type of activity. In spite of the lack of resources available to the Garda, I acknowledge the good work they have done around Finglas in combating this criminal activity. 

A recent successful Garda operation was carried out in the Finglas area and resulted in the seizure of guns and money from a criminal gang. The operation also resulted in a number of houses used by this criminal gang being boarded up by Dublin City Council. The gardaí would be the first to acknowledge that more needs to be done and if they had the proper resources, they could even be more effective. 

At every policing forum or joint policing committee meeting, the issue of the lack of Garda resources is raised by me, other public representatives and members of the community. We need to be listened to. There is no substitute for gardaí on the ground in our communities and interacting with people. That is why more gardaí and resources are needed to help safeguard the community.

Deputy James Browne:

On behalf of the Minister, Deputy McEntee, I thank the Deputy for raising this important matter.

As he will be aware, under section 26 of the Garda Síochána Act 2005, as amended, the Garda Commissioner is responsible for the management and administration of Garda business, which encompasses all operational policing matters, including the allocation of resources. The Minister for Justice has no statutory role in these operational, policing matters.

The Government and the Minister are conscious of the very serious impact that drug and gang-related violence can have on local communities. The ongoing disruption of the supply of all illicit drugs remains a priority for An Garda Síochána and the other State agencies tasked with responsibilities in this regard.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that two suspected firearms, ammunition and cash to the value of more than €47,000 were seized during a number of searches conducted by gardaí in the Finglas area on 10 February 2022, following a number of serious incidents related to ongoing criminal activity in the vicinity in recent weeks.

Daily reassurance patrols are being carried out in the Ratoath area in recognition of the importance of visible policing in the local community and gardaí in Finglas are in ongoing contact with Dublin City Council in relation to unoccupied housing and the potential use of same by criminal elements. A number of addresses have been taken possession of and boarded up by Dublin City Council at the conclusion of Garda searches.

The Government is committed to supporting a strong and visible police presence throughout the country to detect and prevent crime and to provide reassurance to local communities across the country.

An unprecedented allocation of in excess of €2 billion was provided in budget 2022 for An Garda Síochána, which includes funding for the recruitment of an additional 800 gardaí and up to 400 Garda staff. Many of the Garda members to be recruited will be drawn from the Garda recruitment competition that opened just last month.

As the Deputy will be aware, Finglas Garda station is located within the Blanchardstown district of the Dublin metropolitan region, DMR, west division. I am informed that, on 31 January 2022, the most recent date for which figures are available, there were 753 Garda members allocated to the DMR west division. This represents an increase of 6% since December 2018 when there were 709 gardaí assigned to the district. As of 31 January this year, a total of 342 Garda members were assigned to Blanchardstown district, with 98 members assigned to Finglas Garda station.

I am further informed that a competition for the community policing sergeant position is now completed and the appointment of a new sergeant is expected in the coming weeks.

While the Deputy will appreciate that the allocation of resources is an operational matter for the Commissioner, I am assured that the situation remains closely monitored by the Garda senior leadership team, particularly in view of commitments to the continued roll-out of the operating model of policing at divisional level to ensure optimum use of all Garda resources in providing the best possible Garda service to the community.

I reassure the Deputy that the Minister will continue to engage closely with the Garda Commissioner on this issue and all community safety issues in the context of prioritising the delivery of the suite of community safety commitments contained in the programme for Government and the justice plan of the Department.

Deputy Dessie Ellis: It took two years for a community garda to be appointed in Finglas, and that individual has only recently been appointed. While I welcome the appointment, it is unacceptable that this should have happened.

It is also unacceptable that between 90 and 98 gardaí are in the Finglas area on three different shifts. In effect, there are only a certain number of gardaí on each shift. Unfortunately, when people ring the Garda station they are told that there are no cars available. This is happening all the time and it is unacceptable.

If the Garda Commissioner is listening, I would like him to look at the areas, but particularly the Finglas area I am dealing with now, compare what is being used in other parts of the country and the proportion of gardaí in other areas, and see whether there is a significant lack of gardaí in the Finglas area.

I am on the Finglas-Cabra drugs task force for more than 20 years. The amount of resources that are being put into that is unacceptable. There is not a regular top-up when it comes to resources for them. The same happens with the youth resource centre in The Den and the Finglas Youth Resource Centre in Finglas West. The resources are just not good enough. We need to look at all the resources across the board, including the Garda. It is not good enough.

I heard what the Minister said, and I am delighted, about the operation that took place in Finglas, but how many years has it taken to deal with this particular gang? This is going on years. While it is welcome, it should never have got to this stage where there was a headquarters in Finglas out of which these gangs operated. It is unacceptable.

Deputy James Browne: I, again, thank the Deputy for raising this important matter. All the Deputies in the area have continuously raised this matter, including Deputy McAuliffe, who is seated behind me here.

In July last year, An Garda Síochána commenced an enhanced national anti-drug strategy, Operation Tara, which has a strong focus on tackling street-level dealing throughout rural and urban Ireland. Operation Tara works to disrupt, dismantle and prosecute drug trafficking networks at all levels involved in the importation, distribution, cultivation, production, local sale and supply of drugs.

The Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau, GNDOCB, has a critical role to play and is having success in disrupting drug trafficking and the supply of illicit drugs by organised crime. The bureau's work is supported by the divisional drug units nationwide and by all gardaí working in local communities. The bureau also works closely and productively with international law enforcement partners.

Gardaí continue to work closely with local authorities, the HSE, NGOs, community groups and other State agencies to tackle the problems of drug addiction and drug abuse.

On 12 January 2021, An Garda Síochána issued operational statistics on the work of the GNDOCB last year, which included cash seizures in 2021 of €5,639,310 and £38,571. Cash forfeited to the State in 2021 comprised of €8,230,886, £142,520 and $23 while drugs seized were valued at €63.689 million.

I am confident that An Garda Síochána will continue to direct significant resources to tackling the scourge of this kind of crime both in Finglas and throughout the country.

Item Type
Dail Debates
Publication Type
Drug Type
Substances (not alcohol/tobacco)
Intervention Type
Crime prevention
1 March 2022

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