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Budget 2015: Minister Frances Fitzgerald’s Speech on Justice Budget


Statements on Budget 2015 Speech by the Minister for Justice and Equality, Frances Fitzgerald TD

Wednesday 15 October 2015

The Budget announced yesterday marks a significant step forward for Ireland. It is a budget which is fair. It is progressive It is responsible It is forward looking It is fair in that lifts 80,000 low paid people out of the tax net; and it provides for thousands of much-needed social housing units to be built over coming years. It is progressive in that the changes announced to income tax and USC will benefit low and middle income workers, earning up to €70,000.

It is responsible, in that it avoids the reckless mistakes of the past – mistakes of tax-and-spend; and boom-and-bust – which got us in the deficit crisis in the first place. It is forward looking in that it seeks to consolidate the recovery; and support yet further job creation (our income tax changes are estimated to support 15,00 new jobs) while kick-starting sustainable plans for the future in areas such tax reform, housing development, and the development of the public services. As Minister for Justice & Equality, I particular view this as a forward looking budget – one which will secure better policing across the country and underpin major reforms right across the justice sector.

This is a breakthrough budget for the justice sector with yesterday’s allocations representing the first year-on-year budget increases since 2008. Relative to the expenditure ceilings for 2015 published this time last year, the current allocation has increased by €96 million (4.6%), from €2.060 billion to €2.156 billion, and the capital envelope has increased by 68% from €62 million to €107 million.

In gross expenditure terms it has been possible to increase the allocation across the entire Justice sector.

• €1.426 billion is being allocated to the Garda Vote;

• €368 million is being allocated to the Justice and Equality Vote,

• €325 million is being allocated to the Prisons Vote;

• €107 million is being allocated to the Courts Vote;

• €31million is being allocated to the Property Registration Authority vote; and

• €6.3 million is being allocated to the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission.

The budget for the Vote Group can be broken down between 73% pay and pensions related expenditure, 22% non-pay expenditure and 5% capital.

As I have indicated the overall allocation on the current side is up by €96m and the capital side by €45m. Most critically, these increases have not come about because of reductions in other areas of my Vote Group – that is a key point; In areas where no increases have taken place, services for the most part will continue to be on the basis of 2014 funding. This is a good place to be for the Justice Sector after six very long and lean years. We can now go forward and begin to address the many urgent issues that need attention in the Sector.

This will mean that the areas concerned will be able to continue with the vital service delivery functions they are engaged in, while, at the same time, a number of key Government reforms can be progressed. This means a more positive backdrop to expenditure in the Justice and Equality Sector in 2015 than in any year since 2008.

The increased allocation for 2015, taken with the additional €10 million in capital which we have been able to bring forward into 2014, gives me scope to address a number of the key priorities in the Justice Sector. As I said at the outset, these priorities are essentially securing better policing across the country while, at the same time, underpinning major reforms across the policing and justice sector.

Garda Recruitment The increase of €40 million in the budget for Garda Pay for 2015 will allow me to proceed with my objective of recruiting new Gardaí. I am pleased to confirm to the House that, as announced yesterday, there will be two further intakes of recruits to the Garda College in Templemore over the next couple of months, in addition to the first 100 recruits who entered the College last month: the next 100 recruits will enter Templemore before the end of this year, with a further 100 recruits coming to the College in January 2015. This is, I believe, a very important and a very positive development that recruitment to An Garda Síochána has recommenced: like any organisation, the introduction of new staff is vital to ensure that the organisation remains refreshed and revitalised. We need these young Gardaí to contribute to the reform process and revitalisation underway in An Garda Síochána. We also need them to take up duty in our cities, towns and communities and to get on with the task of fighting and preventing crime.

I will continue to monitor Garda staffing levels during 2015 with a view to agreeing further intakes to Garda College as required. I would add that on top of this new recruitment Budget 2015 also provides for the ongoing civilianisation of immigrations functions which, when completed, will free-up 150 Gardai for frontline policing duties. Garda Vehicles Budget 2015 includes an additional new allocation of €10 million to support the purchase and fit-out over 400 new vehicles.

These cars will begin to come on stream in early 2015. This investment, delivers on a key budget priority of mine and demonstrates the commitment of Government to ensuring the ongoing provision of a modern and efficient Garda fleet. I have directed that there will be a particular focus on increasing the number of marked Garda vehicles so as to provide enhanced visibility to the policing presence in our communities – urban and rural – and to support Gardaí in their efforts to prevent and reduce crime.

I also want to see a focus on supporting an increased capacity by Gardaí to respond to burglaries, including rural burglaries, which are often being committed by highly mobile gangs. Justice Reform As Deputies will be aware, the Government is committed to delivering a comprehensive Justice Reform Programme aimed at enhancing the administration and oversight of Ireland’s policing services. We will strengthen the role and remit of GSOC while the new independent Policing Authority will provide further public accountability of policing in this country. The funding announced as part of Budget 20154 will help support these important reforms.

The House will be pleased to hear that I have provided €500,000 for the establishment of the planned Policing Authority and an additional €1 million and €250,000 for the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) and the Garda Inspectorate respectively. With respect to the proposed Policing Authority, work is continuing in preparing the Heads for the necessary legislation and I expect that they will be submitted to Government for approval shortly. Following a process seeking expressions of interest conducted by the Public Appointments Service, I will shortly bring proposals to Government in relation to the nomination of a chairperson-designate for the Authority.

This will enable the nominated person to be involved in the appointment of the next Garda Commissioner notwithstanding the fact that the Authority will not be established before the appointment is made. The Government has recently approved a new Bill (Garda Síochána (Amendment) (No. 3) Bill 2014) to strengthen the remit and powers of GSOC in certain areas. The published Bill is a priority element of the Government’s Criminal Justice Reform Programme, and is likely to be enacted quickly.

This legislation and other associated legislation will give rise to an increase in GSOC’s workload It is only right therefore that GSOC be supported to strengthen its investigative capacity, starting with supporting its investigation into allegations relating to the cancellation of Fixed Charge Notices. The additional funding announced will aide this.