Tuesday, 7 February 2012
Dáil Éireann Debate
61. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the final number of eligible garda who have indicated they will be retiring by end February 2012; the options reviewed by the Garda Commissioners in relation to potentially closing garda stations; his plans to maintain front line services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6624/12]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): The strength of the Garda Síochána at the end of 2011 was just under 13,900, along with over 2,000 civilian support staff and over 800 Garda Reserve members. I am informed by the Garda authorities that the total number of Garda retirements from the force in the first two months of this year is expected to be around 300. To put that figure into context, in 2009 the number of retirements was 722, in 2010 it was 362 and last year it was 436.
As the Deputy will be aware, these reductions form part of a wider programme aimed at reducing the size of the public service and will contribute to reducing expenditure and complying with the terms of the EU-IMF agreement. Of course, what will ultimately determine the sustainable level of Garda numbers is the level of budgetary provision that can be made for the force and the House will be conscious that difficult decisions will continue to have to be made right across the public sector in order to bring our public finances back into balance.
Reductions in numbers, whether in the Garda Síochána or elsewhere in the public sector, must be accompanied by reform. New efficiencies must be introduced so that even with reduced staffing levels the best possible service continues to be provided to the public. That need for efficiency is what underlies the recent decision of the Garda Commissioner to close some Garda stations. In coming to his decision, the Commissioner reviewed all aspects of the Garda Síochána’s policing model, including the deployment of personnel, the utilisation of modern technologies and, of course, the level of activity in each Garda station.
The key objective of the station closures was not simply, as some have suggested, to save relatively small amounts of cash on station maintenance or utilities, but rather to promote the more efficient and effective deployment of resources. The Commissioner concluded that Garda resources could be better deployed and more effectively used on the front line if these particular stations no longer had to be staffed and maintained. Deputies who oppose the closure of any Garda stations are therefore opposing what in the professional judgment of the Garda Commissioner is a better use of Garda resources.
The House might be interested to note that today I announced that the Government, at my request and with the sanction of the Minster for Public Expenditure and Reform, had appointed two assistant commissioners, eight chief superintendents and 23 superintendents in An Garda Síochána. In seeking these promotions, I was conscious of the need to enable the Garda Commissioner to fill key positions in the senior ranks, and to maintain both the investigative and also the management and supervisory capacity of the force.
The Garda Commissioner has reiterated the commitment of the Garda Síochána to providing a professional and effective service to the community. This will mean continuing to promote reform and introduce efficiencies. The Commissioner will have my full support in this regard.
Deputy Dara Calleary: The promotions announced by the Minister this morning are the subject of a later question. Could he confirm that a so-called transition team has been established in the Department of Justice and Equality? When was it established, who makes up the team, and what are its terms of reference?
Reference was made to the announced closure of 39 stations. The Minister indicated in January that a further range of stations would be closed during 2012. Will it be the 2013 budget before the Minister has that list or will it be an ongoing process?
On cost savings, which the Minister cited previously as one of the reasons we need to close Garda stations, he corresponded with me to say that the running costs for individual Garda stations are not available because they are compiled by district, not by station. It is no wonder he cannot provide a figure for savings made on the closure of each station when he cannot give a figure for the cost of running each station.
Deputy Dara Calleary: ——there is a wonderful resource on justice called alanshatter.ie which is particularly good pre-March 2011. I direct the Minister to the comments he made about the reduction of Garda numbers at a Garda station in Rathfarnham. He was most concerned about the potential closure of the station.
Deputy Alan Shatter: As the Deputy is aware, under the EU-IMF agreement, substantial efficiencies must be effected. His party, when in government, entered into arrangements with a view to reducing the numbers in the Garda force to 13,500 by 31 December 2011. In the context of ensuring proper use of taxpayers’ money and the maximum use of resources, the Garda Commissioner made the decisions he made on Garda stations. I wish that the economic incompetence and lack of governance shown by the previous Government did not have this country in the state it is in. I wish we were not in a position where we have to reduce numbers within the Garda force. I am confronted with the obligations we have under that agreement and with a Garda force and Commissioner who is totally focused on ensuring the force is in a position to fully meet its duties to implement the police plan for 2012, as announced, and to provide the community with the protection required from those engaged in criminality and with a proper investigative role.
In the context of dealing with matters well in advance of us getting to our current position, at an early stage in the Department work was undertaken and consultations were undertaken with the Garda Commissioner to ensure that any steps that were required with regard to the changes affecting Garda numbers would be put in place. Today’s welcome announcements with regard to the promotions that were approved in Cabinet establishes the level of planning that has gone into ensuring at management level that necessary posts are filled in the interests both of the Garda Síochána itself and the community.
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