10 September 2015

Address by the Minister for Justice and Equality, Frances Fitzgerald TD, on the occasion of the Garda Passing Out Parade The Garda College, Templemore

Tánaiste, Commissioner, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen and of course our new members  of An Garda Síochána.

Firstly, thank you Tánaiste for presiding over this great occasion.  

New members, it is an important day for you as you become proud members of An Garda Síochána.

It is a day, to recognise and acknowledge your achievement in coming through a very competitive recruitment process, and completing 32 weeks of challenging and rigorous training.

It is a proud day for your family and friends who are here today to share this great occasion with you. 

And most of all it is an important day for the communities you will now go out to serve.

From today you will leave the Garda Training College and for the next 65 weeks you will be based in a Garda Station, where you will learn, with the support of your colleagues, to work in partnership with the community you serve, to provide a professional police service.   The training you have completed will stand to you as you face the challenges of operational policing.  You will experience the reward of knowing that in your role as a member of An Garda Síochána you can make a real difference in the lives of our citizens, by making our communities safer and better places to live. 

I would like to take this opportunity, to congratulate the Commissioner and the members of An Garda Síochána for the tremendous courage and bravery they demonstrate on a daily basis in order to make us feel safe on our streets and in our homes.

Burglary of a person’s home is a heinous and traumatic crime. It can have a devastating impact on our sense of security within our homes.  I am determined to keep burglars off the streets and to improve the safety of our communities. I am committed to tackling it on a number of fronts, including through a focus on interagency measures in relation to the management of prolific offenders, visible policing, and crime prevention support for communities. I have just published the Criminal Justice (Burglary of Dwellings) Bill 2015, which targets repeat burglary offenders through new measures relating to bail and the imposition of consecutive sentencing for repeat offending. Figures from the Garda Síochána Analysis Service indicate that 75% of burglaries are committed by 25% of burglars. Targeting this cohort of repeat offenders has the potential to significantly reduce the number of burglaries being committed.

Garda operational strategy in relation to burglary is coordinated under Operation Fiacla which I am informed  has led to over 14,000  arrests with just under 8,000 charges being brought since its inception in April 2012 to 31 July this year. 

Last September, this Government reopened the Garda College for new recruits for the first time since 2009. We will not let it close again to new recruits.

To date there has been four intakes of Garda Trainees into the Garda College, giving a total intake of just under 400.  A further 150 recruits will enter this college by year end, bringing total recruitment of Garda Trainees to 550.  We promised seamless ongoing recruitment and we are delivering on that promise. It is my intention that there will be ongoing recruitment of trainee Garda, throughout 2016. 

Of course, recruiting Gardaí could prove futile unless they are properly resourced. Critical to this is ensuring that Gardaí are mobile, responsive and visible in the community.

This Government has invested nearly €29 million in new Garda vehicles since 2012. The latest 370 new Garda vehicles have begun coming on stream since the start of this year. In addition, I recently allocated a further €700,000 for new specialised vehicles to support Gardaí in responding to current and emerging crime threats, including those committed by highly-mobile gangs.

We are backing all this investment in resources up with an ambitious programme of criminal law reform including a landmark Victim’s Rights Bill, reform of our bail laws, stronger legislation to protect and support victims of domestic violence, and as I have already mentioned, new provisions to tackle repeat burglary offenders. 

Throughout your career, you will work to maintain and build upon the respect and trust An Garda Síochána enjoys within communities. You must uphold the organisation’s values of honesty, trust, accountability and respect.

You have the ability to contribute to and shape the future for the organisation. I would like to stress, the need for you as members of An Garda Síochána to inform the overall thinking of the service. You bring to the organisation your individual energy and idealism, and An Garda Síochána should capitalise on that. I believe that every one of you has a particular insight to offer regarding  the future development of  An Garda Síochána, which will  support the Force to deliver a modern, professional police service, that the people of Ireland can be proud of. 

I hope you will enjoy a rewarding career within An Garda Síochána. I know that each of you leaves here with great enthusiasm, hopes and ambitions for the future. I ask that you use this energy to deliver a policing service we can all be proud of. 

I wish you the best of luck and wisdom in your career and I hope you all have a great day with your family and friends.