March 7: Collins says insufficient garda numbers for effective policing

Up to 500 members of An Garda Siochána are out sick most days. Fianna Fáil’s Justice Spokesman told the Dáil. In addition, he said a further 110 members are on incentivised career breaks.

Up to 500 members of An Garda Siochána are out sick most days. Fianna Fáil’s Justice Spokesman told the Dáil. In addition, he said a further 110 members are on incentivised career breaks.

Speaking during Question Time Deputy Collins asked the Minister for Justice her views on the fact that the number of gardaí has fallen below 13,000 and the optimum level of membership of An Garda Síochána in order to police the country effectively.

“The most significant resource An Garda Síochána needs is manpower,” he said.

“If it is deficient in manpower, it puts the entire system under pressure. Some 113,500 bench warrants are outstanding. The force falls behind in doing that type of work and significant issues can arise as a result.

“I am, therefore, trying to establish what the Minister’s number is for the Garda force. What should the minimum level be?

“The Garda Commissioner, Ms Nóirín O’Sullivan, stated she wanted to maintain it at 13,000, but it has now dipped below that figure. Will the Government nail its colours to the mast in that regard?”

In response, Minister Frances Fitzgerald said the strength of An Garda Síochána on 31 December 2014, the latest date for which figures are readily available, was 12,799. There were also 1,124 Garda Reserve members, with a further 48 in training.

“I am pleased to add that my colleague, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, agreed to the resumption of Garda recruitment and, as I said, we now have 300 student gardaí in training,” she said.

“Sufficient gardaí are needed to support the delivery of the policing service which the public expects and deserves.”

1700 additional teachers to be recruited – Minister Jan O’Sullivan

Budget 2015 will allow the Department of Education to recruit the 1,700 additional teachers, resource teachers and SNAs which children need and deserve, Minister Jan O’Sullivan told the Dáil.

Replying to South Kerry Deputy Brendan Griffin, she said her focus in Budget 2015 was on obtaining the additional funding that was necessary to provide for demographic growth.

“I was also able to secure the funding necessary to begin education inspections of early years settings, to reform the junior cycle and to continue funding the literacy and numeracy strategy.

“This has delivered such great results for children throughout Ireland, but I could not secure the funding necessary for everything that Members of this House might have liked,” she said.

“That means I do not have additional funding to change the staffing of small schools or class sizes generally.”

Minister O’Sullivan said also did not have additional funding to increase school capitation, restore guidance counsellors, invest more in higher education or any number of other pressing needs, but in the previous Budget she did secure the first increase in recent years.

“I am determined to build on that again as part of Budget 2016 and to see meaningful additional investments made to education spending,” she said.

“Of course, educational quality for pupils has to be the main criterion in any consideration of primary school size.”

NAMA aiming for a €500m surplus - Minister Michael Noonan

NAMA predicts a projected a financial surplus of the order of €500 million over its lifetime, Finance Minister Michael Noonan told the Dáil.

Speaking during Question Time, he said NAMA is aiming to redeem a cumulative 80% - that is €24 billion - of its senior debt by the end of 2016.

The agency hopes that it will have redeemed all of its senior debt by the end of 2018.

“In addition to its commitment to redeem a minimum of 80% of its senior debt by the end of 2016, the NAMA Board also undertook to facilitate the timely and coherent delivery of key grade A office space, retail and residential space within the Dublin Docklands strategic development zone and Dublin’s central business district and to maximise the delivery of residential housing units in areas of most need,” he said.

Given that these commitments were agreed with NAMA only in July 2014, he said it is still too early to speculate as to what date in the future NAMA will have made sufficient progress on its objectives as to warrant consideration of its dissolution.

New Bill will address children living in diverse family forms

A new Children and Family Relationship s Bill will modernise the law in respect of children living in diverse family forms, Limerick Fine Gael Deputy Dan Neville told the Dáil. It is, he said, intended to address the security needs of those children and their family situations, whether they are living with married parents, unmarried parents, a parent and the parent’s partner, a grandparent or another relative who is parenting the child.

“Society has changed significantly in the 51 years since the Guardianship of Infants Act was introduced in 1964,” he said. “My lifetime has seen significant changes in society and children in society. The realities of modern life have changed significantly in that period. Previously, people took the view that children should be seen and not heard and that corporal punishment was acceptable and legal in the home and in schools. The changes have been significant since those times.”