Address of Willie O’Dea TD,
Minister for Defence
on behalf of
The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform
On the occasion of the Graduation of Reserve Members of the Garda Síochána
The Garda College, Templemore
13th December 2007
Commissioner, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen. It is a great honour for me to attend this graduation day for Garda Reserve members on behalf of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Brian Lenihan TD, who unfortunately cannot be here today.
For all of you who are graduating as Reserve members this is indeed a proud day. It marks the end of a rigorous selection process and an intense training programme. You have come through with flying colours and you are now able to join your colleagues as members of An Garda Síochána.
It is a great day for your families too. They have seen what you have gone through in recent months and they have supported you in your decision to contribute to your community as a Reserve Garda. I am sure they are all delighted to see you present here today with your fellow members proudly wearing the Garda uniform.
This is for all of you a day of pride, but also a challenge. Over the past nine decades the men and women of An Garda Síochána have protected the Irish people with an unwavering dedication. Day and night they have put on the uniform and faced down those who would threaten the safety of their fellow citizens. I know that you will meet that challenge of serving and protecting the people of this country and that you will maintain the honour and the good name of An Garda Síochána. As Minister for Defence I can firmly say that this Government will do its part. We will support An Garda Síochána in every way possible to tackle crime in our society.
In October, Minister Lenihan outlined his policing priorities for 2008 which include addressing gun crime, organised crime, drugs and public order. These Policing Priorities set clear objectives for An Garda Síochána which the Garda Commissioner has taken into account in making his Policing Plan for 2008. These priorities show the focus of this Government in addressing these important areas of policing and crime prevention and detection, and they are backed up by the substantial resources which the Government is continuing to provide to An Garda Síochána.
Last week in the Dáil the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance announced an 11% increase in the Garda Budget. In 2008 it will rise to over €1.6 billion, an unprecedented investment in policing. This College will continue to be a very busy place for a number of years to come with the ongoing recruitment of full-time Garda trainees. We are investing heavily in the facilities and equipment, including protective equipment, available to all members, including Reserve members. Substantial investment is being made in new technology, including a state-of-the-art digital radio system.
This investment is particularly aimed at providing what communities all over Ireland want - more Gardaí on our streets. The Government aims to release as many trained Gardaí as possible from administrative tasks so that they can concentrate on frontline, visible policing. To this end more than 300 civilians have been recruited to date in 2007, and more are to be recruited.
The Reserve – current position
The Garda Reserve is still in its early days, but is growing in strength. The first group of Reserve recruits began their training just over a year ago. Today, with your graduation, there are more than 220 Reserve members assigned to Garda stations throughout the country. In addition there are another 70 or so at various stages of their training. Recruitment is continuing apace and interviews are being held on an ongoing basis at various locations around the country. It gives me particular pleasure that a significant number of people from my own home county of Limerick are ably represented in the Garda Reserve and have decided to give something back to their community in this way.
The Government’s commitment to the Garda Reserve is clear. The Programme for Government sets the target for the Reserve at ten percent of the Force. The Programme contains a commitment to bring the full-time membership to 16,000 by 2012, so the target for the Reserve is 1,600 members. As a voluntary service we depend on people finding time to participate in the training and the ongoing work of a Reserve member. The selection procedures set high standards and this is as it should be as Reserve members have to work side by side with full-time members in providing a wide range of services.
Community Policing, Visible Policing
A police force can not operate on the strength of its numbers or equipment alone. Its main asset must be the support it receives from the people. Communities must work in partnership with Gardaí to ensure that criminals cannot hide or be protected. In areas of high crime decent members of the community must be protected and supported so that criminals and criminal gangs cannot terrorise and intimidate those around them. If any evidence of the support of the communities in every corner of this country for the Garda Síochána was required, you are that living evidence. Your voluntary service of your communities is a refreshing reminder that there are many who ask what they can do for their country. Yours is a very real and practical patriotism.
An Garda Síochána has an outstanding record of community support and acceptance through the years. Maintaining engagement with, and commitment to, the community is a challenging issue when many people, including Gardaí, have limited free time with heavy work commitments that they must balance with family life. Many people, including some Gardaí, have long commutes to work. Garda Reserve members such as you have a crucial role to play in strengthening links between An Garda Síochána and the wider community.
As Reserve Gardaí you will be at the heart of police work in your communities. You will be the local face of policing confronting not just crime, but also the fear of crime. The force can be rightly proud of its record in preventing and detecting crime; in that regard it stands with the best in the world. But as uniformed members working on our roads and in our towns, you will be the visible reassurance to all of safety and security – the guardians of the peace and the providers of peace of mind. I commend you for your public spirit in undertaking this vital and challenging role and committing some of your free time to serving your community.
You are a great sign of hope for our communities. At a time when many are tempted to curse the darkness you are lighting a bright light. You will bring local knowledge to your station and to your colleagues. To the communities you serve you will be a living link with the Garda Síochána. You will also bring the skills and knowledge you have built up in your everyday employment and studies that can infuse local policing with a fresh insight. Some of you may even choose to become full-time members. In whatever role you play in the Garda Síochána in the years to come I wish you well.
I am very proud to be here today and to be associated with such a committed group of people. On behalf of the Minister and the Government and the people of Ireland I want to congratulate you on your achievement and thank you for offering your time and your commitment to making your community and our country a safer place.
I wish you all and your families an enjoyable day.
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