46. Deputy Bobby Aylward asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of gardaí in each Garda station in counties Carlow and Kilkenny as of 1 November 2017; the number of community gardaí in the division; and the number of Garda Reserve and new recruits assigned to the division since recruitment resumed in 2014. (Question 51634/17 asked on 05 Dec 2017)

Deputy Bobby Aylward: How many gardaí are in each Garda station in Carlow-Kilkenny as of 1 November 2017; how many community Garda are in the division as a whole, how many Garda reservists and new recruits have been assigned to the division since recruitment resumed in 2014?

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Notwithstanding the Commissioner’s responsibility for the distribution of gardaí, I have provided for the Official Report a breakdown, in tabular form, of the detailed information requested by the Deputy as of 31 October 2017, the latest date for which information is readily available.

The Garda strength of the Kilkenny-Carlow division on 31 October 2017 was 324, of whom 91 are community gardaí. There are also 26 Garda Reserve and 31 Garda civilian staff attached to the division. When appropriate, the work of local gardaí is supported by a number of Garda national units such as the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, the armed support units, the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau and the Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau.

As the Deputy will be aware this Government is committed to ensuring a strong and visible police presence throughout the country. To achieve this our overall plan is to have a Garda workforce of 21,000 personnel by 2021 comprising 15,000 Garda members, 2,000 Reserve members and 4,000 civilians. We are making real, tangible progress on achieving this goal, having regard to the fact that the Garda college in Templemore was closed for a period in 2010.

I am also pleased that budget 2018 maintains this high level of investment in the Garda workforce to ensure that overall plan is implemented. I would be happy to provide the Deputy with detailed figures for Carlow-Kilkenny in the table.

The figures come to a total of 324. Some 86 are in Carlow town; 15 in Tullow; 130 in Kilkenny city; and 11 in Castlecomer, the Deputy’s own area. Garda figures for the Thomastown district come to a total of 62, including Bennetsbridge, Glenmore, Goresbridge, Graiguenamanagh, Kilmoganny, 12 in Mooncoin, Mullinavat, Piltown and 38 in Thomastown.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House

STRENGTH OF THE KILKENNY/CARLOW DIVISION 31 OCTOBER 2017
DISTRICT STATION TOTAL
CARLOW BALLON 1
BORRIS 1
CARLOW 86
HACKETSTOWN 1
MUINEBHEAG 10
MYSHALL 1
RATHVILLY 1
TULLOW 15
TOTAL 116
KILKENNY CALLAN 4
CASTLECOMER 11
KILKENNY 130
URLINGFORD 1
TOTAL 146
THOMASTOWN BENNETSBRIDGE 1
GLENMORE 1
GORESBRIDGE 2
GRAIGUENAMANAGH 4
KILMOGANNY 1
MOONCOIN 12
MULLINAVAT 2
PILTOWN 1
THOMASTOWN 38
TOTAL 62
KILKENNY/CARLOW TOTAL 324

Deputy Bobby Aylward: I recognise the increased provision of gardaí, particularly in south Kilkenny, which the Minister has mentioned. In my own parish, Ballyhale station and Stoneyford station, which were unmanned for a few years, are now manned. Both of those stations are situated in my locality and were stretched for resources in previous years. I acknowledge that. I am delighted to see that we are operating at full potential again and are seeing a stronger, more robust Garda presence in these communities and the surrounding areas. I recognise the work of the chief superintendent of the Carlow-Kilkenny division and the local superintendent in Thomastown station, which the Minister mentioned. The lines of dialogue between the Garda and the local community get stronger by the day and I am delighted to see the proactive work being done to improve community policing for these areas. However, there is a need for an increase in Garda Reserve numbers for Carlow and Kilkenny. The Garda Reserve has an important function, assisting the work of the main force and interacting with local communities. It also allows citizens to make a positive contribution to their communities and enhances the effectiveness of community policing. There needs to be more members of the Garda Reserve to assist the main force. This will free up the main force’s resources. As of 1 December 2016, there were only 695 members of the Garda Reserve. Of these, only 303 claimed their allowance, which is to say that they had completed the full 208 hours of service. Will the Minister comment on that?

Deputy Charles Flanagan: I advise the Deputy that I have concerns about the operation of the Garda Reserve and I see great potential to increase numbers to help support communities and An Garda Síochána in the delivery of a service. There are 26 Garda reserves in Kilkenny. I expect the strategic review that is currently under way to be completed and with me by the end of the year and I would be happy to inform the House further about the plan for that. Kilkenny has been favoured with 44 new Garda recruits from Templemore, bringing the number in the Kilkenny-Carlow division to 324, higher now than any year since 2008. It is important in the context of ongoing policing that further consideration is given to Garda numbers, having regard to the submissions of the Deputy, who I know is in contact with the joint policing committee in Kilkenny and I would be happy, as Minister, to assist him.

Deputy Bobby Aylward: We must ramp up our response to rural crime. The national statistics showing a reduction in burglaries and related offences do not reflect the situation in rural Ireland. The people of these communities feel isolated and forgotten. It is only a matter of time before we begin to see serious incidents of vigilantism occurring around the country. This is not an exaggeration. This is an old hobby horse of mine. I mention it often, as recently as last week, in the Dáil. There has been a failing by the Government to honour the commitment in the programme for Government to provide CCTV cameras at all major junctions leading to motorways. I heard that every time I raised the issue. I am not talking about the community-based CCTV grant aid scheme launched last April but the roll-out of a CCTV-based crime fighting system on our motorways which are being used by criminal gangs, which terrorise areas, to get in and out of communities. There are two motorways in Kilkenny which come from towns and cities, and gangs come in on them, commit robberies, and are gone half an hour later. We need CCTV camera systems on all junctions leading off our motorways to counteract this.

Deputy Charles Flanagan: I am conscious of what the Deputy says. My constituency has a similar profile to that of my neighbours in Kilkenny and Carlow and new challenges are being faced with the way that the motorway network has helped mobility. I assure Deputy Aylward that there will be a significant Garda presence throughout Kilkenny and Carlow over the winter months. Operation Thor, involving a broad range of activities to tackle organised crime in urban and rural areas, works with communities to prevent crime. It is a comprehensive operation supported by enhanced Government investment in Garda resources, including almost €100 million for Garda overtime. We have also invested heavily in the Garda fleet and there are many new vehicles in the Kilkenny-Carlow area, with a total of 720 coming on-stream since the start of 2015, and the provision of €46 million for new Garda vehicles under the capital plan for 2016 to 2021. Under Operation Thor, we have had 92,000 targeted checkpoints and 71,700 crime prevention patrols nationwide. However-----

Deputy Bobby Aylward: What about CCTV?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: We have to give other Deputies a chance. I call Deputy Pat Casey.

Deputy Charles Flanagan: I would be happy to advance the issue of CCTV in communities.