I recently asked my colleague the Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan how many members of the force are currently stationed within the Westmeath division. As the country returns to economic growth and tax receipts continue to increase, it is vital that people locally feel this money is being distributed in a fair and responsible manner throughout the county. Members of the force are on the frontline defending us every day and too often they are over-worked, over stressed and under resourced. Thus I was pleased to be informed that the strength of the Westmeath Division is 270 with 13 Reserves and 24 Garda civilians.
Since last year, our numbers in Westmeath have increased by 16. There were 242 guards stationed in Westmeath In 2016, which jumped by 16 last year to bring us up to 270. I am hopeful that this number will significantly increase again this year.
The Government has put in place a plan for an overall Garda workforce of 21,000 personnel by 2021
comprising of 15,000 Garda members, 2,000 Reserve members and 4,000 civilians. As you can see in relation to the Westmeath figures, we are making real, tangible progress on achieving this goal.
Since the reopening of the Garda College in September 2014, just under 1,600 recruits have attested as members of An Garda Síochána and have been assigned to mainstream duties nationwide, of whom 32 to the Westmeath Division. Garda numbers, taking account of retirements, increased to 13,551 at the end of 2017 – an increase of over 600 since the end of 2016. Furthermore, funding is in place to maintain this high level of investment in the Garda workforce to ensure that the vision of an overall workforce of 21,000 by 2021 remains on track.
This year a further 800 new Garda Recruits will enter the Garda College. Also 800 Garda trainees are
scheduled to attest during the year which will see Garda numbers, taking account of projected retirements, reach 14,000 by the end of 2018. In addition, a further 500 civilians will also be recruited to fill critical skills 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 with new Reserves expected to commence training early this year.
I believe this focus on investment in personnel is critical to restore 100% confidence in our force and to give the current members of the force the confidence and the ability to carry out their duties to the best of their potential. Resources were stretched for far too long and guards were put under undue pressure and stress because of this. The moratorium on recruitment introduced in 2010 resulted in a significant reduction in the strength of An Garda Síochána. We are now rebuilding the organisation and providing the Commissioner with the resources needed to deploy increasing
numbers of Gardaí across every Division, including the Westmeath Division.
Numbers alone are not enough and over time, and pay conditions must also be improved. But more members of An Garda Síochána reporting for duty in the county is undoubtedly a step in the right direction.