Dáil Éireann - Volume 630 - 01 February, 2007

Written Answers. - Garda Stations.

Mr. Howlin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the Garda station in Portarlington opens only during office hours and residents are often connected to Portlaoise when they ring Portarlington station; if Garda deployment will be reviewed in view of the fact that the population of both Portarlington and the nearby village of Killenard has increased substantially in recent years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3261/07]

  Mr. McDowell: I have been informed by the Garda authorities, who are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources that the personnel strength of An Garda Síochána increased to a record 13,000 following the attestation of 299 new members on 16 November, 2006. This compares with a total strength of 10,702 as at 30 June, 1997 and represents an increase of 2,298 (or 21.5%) in the [1381] strength of the Force during that period. The combined strength (all ranks), of both attested Gardaí and recruits in training as at the 31 December 2006 was 14,068. Furthermore, I should say that in December, 2006 as part of a package of anti-crime measures, the Government approved the continuation of the existing Garda recruitment programme to achieve a total Garda strength of 15,000. The accelerated intake of 275 new recruits per quarter into the Garda College will continue until this target is met. The Garda Budget now stands at €1.4 billion, an 11% increase on 2006 and a 96% increase since 1997 in real terms.

The Garda authorities state that Portarlington Garda Station forms part of the Portlaoise Garda District. Local Garda management report that Portarlington Garda Station is normally open to the public for 4 hours each day Monday to Saturday between the hours of 10 am to 1 p.m. and 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. Portarlington Garda Station is equipped with a Public Access Call Box (P.A.C.B.) system and outside the opening hours of the Station, all calls are diverted to the District Headquarters at Portlaoise Garda Station. I am further informed that resources are augmented from within the District/Division, to patrol and respond to any calls from the Portarlington area. Resources are further augmented by a number of Garda National Units such as the Garda National Drugs Unit, the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB), the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) and other specialised units, all of which have had increased resources.

Garda management state that the extension of the opening hours at individual Garda Stations is a matter for each Divisional Officer. The extension of opening hours at any Garda Station would necessitate the employment of additional personnel on indoor administrative duties and consequently a loss to outdoor operational policing. It is the responsibility of the Divisional Officer to allocate personnel within Divisions on a priority basis in accordance with the requirements of different areas. These personnel allocations are determined by a number of factors including demographics, crime trends and other operational policing needs. Garda management state that such allocations are continually monitored and reviewed along with overall policing arrangements and operational strategy. This ensures that optimum use is made of Garda resources, and that the best possible service is provided to the public.