47. Deputy Pat Casey asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of gardaí in each Garda station in County Wicklow as of 1 November 2017; the number of community gardaí in the division; and the number of Garda reserves and new recruits assigned to the division since recruitment resumed in 2014. (Question 51663/17 asked on 05 Dec 2017)

Deputy Pat Casey: My question is to ask the number of gardaí in each Garda station in County Wicklow as of 1 November 2017; the number of community gardaí in the division; and the number of Garda reserves and new recruits assigned to the division since recruitment resumed in 2014.

Deputy Charles Flanagan: I thank Deputy Casey for his question. Notwithstanding the Garda Commissioner’s responsibility for the distribution of Garda personnel, I am happy to provide a breakdown, in tabular form, of the detailed information requested by the Deputy for County Wicklow.

The Garda strength of the Wicklow division on 31 October 2017 was 301, of whom 13 are community gardaí. There are also 20 Garda reserves and 26 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.

The Government is committed to ensuring a strong and visible police presence throughout the country in order to maintain and strengthen community engagement, provide reassurance to citizens of County Wicklow and to deter crime in the Wicklow area.  To achieve this, the Government has put in place a plan for an overall Garda workforce of 21,000 personnel by 2021, which will comprise 15,000 Garda members, 2,000 Garda Reserve members, which will be a significant increase from those currently in the Garda Reserve, and 4,000 civilians which will allow for the freeing up of sworn gardaí to do duties on the street on patrol, which is the primary function of An Garda Síochána.

I am informed by the Commissioner that since the reopening of the Garda College in September 2014, almost 1,400 recruits have attested as fully-fledged members of An Garda Síochána and have been assigned to mainstream duties nationwide, 21 of whom have been assigned directly to Garda stations in the Wicklow area.  I look forward to attending the graduation of a further 200 trainee graduates on Friday this week, which will see Garda numbers, taking account of projected retirements, increase to around 13,500 by the end of this year, a net increase of 500 since this time last year.

STRENGTH OF THE WICKLOW DIVISION 31 OCTOBER 2017
DISTRICT STATION TOTAL
BALTINGLASS BALTINGLASS 32
BLESSINGTON 23
CARNEW 4
DUNLAVIN 2
SHILLELAGH 1
TINAHELY 2
TOTAL 64
BRAY BRAY 108
ENNISKERRY 3
GREYSTONES 27
NEWTOWNMOUNTKENNEDY 3
TOTAL 141
WICKLOW ARKLOW 35
ASHFORD 3
AUGHRIM 1
AVOCA 1
RATHDRUM 3
ROUNDWOOD 3
WICKLOW 50
TOTAL 96
WICKLOW TOTAL 301

Deputy Pat Casey: I thank the Minister for his response. I welcome the recent announcement of the reopening of Donard Garda station in Wicklow. It did not quite achieve the same national profile as Stepaside but we welcome it and the increase of the number of gardaí by 21. I sought these improvements to the Garda strength in Wicklow with both the Minister on his appointment and with his predecessor in the Chamber. It is a positive development and I thank the Minister for the commitment. However, the increase in Garda numbers and reopening of the station must be followed by further action at this time of year, specifically in relation to Operation Thor. Wicklow sees hardened criminal gangs targeting the county, specifically with thefts from Christmas tree farms, robberies of cash from businesses and various attacks on isolated, elderly members of our community. We are all aware of the violent attacks this year on vulnerable and elderly people in Arklow and Kilboy in rural south Wicklow. All of us must be extremely vigilant and conscious of elderly neighbours living in our towns and communities. There needs to be a discussion about how we deal with people who engage in these repulsive and senseless attacks on vulnerable people and our emergency services personnel.

Deputy Charles Flanagan: I assure the Deputy that my remarks in response to the question tabled by Deputy Aylward ring true to the same degree as far as County Wicklow is concerned. Operation Thor continues and Garda overtime will continue in order to ensure that every effort is made to police rural communities in particular. I acknowledge rural aspects of Deputy Casey’s constituency.

I want to point to crime prevention days at locations identified for high volume throughput, including shopping centres, public transport hubs and termini and other high visibility locations. I acknowledge the existence of high visibility patrols on foot by personnel as well as in cars and on mountain bikes and high visibility public order patrols in areas of urban concentration and rural areas. I am also conscious of the legislative reforms, in particular the priority to strengthen provisions through the enactment of the Criminal Justice (Burglary of Dwellings) Act 2015 and others. I have a table containing the information relating to County Wicklow which I will gladly pass on to the Deputy.

Deputy Pat Casey: I wish to inform the Minister specifically about Wicklow and the Baltinglass division which currently has only a part-time inspector on loan from Bray. Further, the superintendent was transferred out of the county with no permanent replacement. As the Minister might be aware, the Baltinglass division is almost half the geographic area of the whole county but it is sparsely populated. It stretches from Blessington all the way to County Wexford. Will the Minister inquire as to the stage at which the replacement of both the superintendent and the inspector are with the police authority and the commission?

An application for CCTV systems was made for Main Street, Arklow. This is an essential deterrent and would be a useful tool in bringing criminals to justice. Deputy Bobby Aylward and the Minister spoke about CCTV and access off motorways into rural areas. I think this is crying out to be delivered.

Deputy Charles Flanagan: I assure the Deputy of the existence of funding in respect of community CCTV. The application process is open and I have €1 million at my disposal for local communities. I am anxious to ensure that local public representatives are actively engaged in the provision of this information to local communities and would be happy to assist Deputy Casey in that regard.

As far as Baltinglass is concerned and, in particular, its Garda complement, there is a total of 32 active gardaí in the Baltinglass station and 23 in the west Wicklow town of Blessington. Budget 2018 maintains a high level of investment in the Garda workforce in order to ensure that my target of 21,000 members by 2021 is realised and achieved. A further 800 new Garda recruits will enter the Garda college next year. This will see Garda numbers reach the 14,000 mark by the end of this time next year. I can confirm that as of December 2017 we will achieve the 13,500 mark. A further 500 civilians will also be recruited to fill critical skill gaps across the organisation and to facilitate the redeployment of gardaí from administrative and technical duties to front-line operational duties. There are plans to strengthen the Garda Reserve and a new reserve is expected to commence training early next year.