The first thing I want to do is to thank you.
Thank you for the tremendous work you have done over the last few years to keep your communities and this country safe with fewer people and less resources. This has put great professional and, in some cases, personal strain on people in this room. It has not been easy, but it has been necessary. One of the great opportunities offered by a conference such as this is the opportunity to stop, register and express gratitude - on behalf of the service and the nation.
Thank you for your support for me as Commissioner. Your properly nuanced support...!
And thank you for your individual and collective constructive input on how we are going to change for the better.
And I say "we" deliberately because the delivery of the comprehensive reform programme is not just my job or that of the Assistant Commissioners or for Garda HQ. It is everyone’s job.
Yes, I and my management team are quite rightly ultimately responsible and answerable for its implementation, but that will not happen unless Garda members and staff throughout the organisation play their part too.
I know from my meetings with the AGSI Executive that you are supportive of this change and while we're not going to agree on every single element, where we do agree is that An Garda Síochána must become a modern, victim-centred, crime prevention focused police service.
And it’s you I need to be the first line of ensuring this reform happens and happens in the right way.
You are the people who are dealing with issues raised daily by those under your charge, or indeed issues and problems you yourselves identify.
You have the skills to deal with the vast majority of them. You’ll also know that some things will require a more in depth analysis, or a different viewpoint, and your years of experience will tell you when you need a second opinion.
You have been promoted to frontline management because of these skills, and because of initiative and ability shown to date. Your management jobs encompass these … and more.
They encompass leadership too. And empathy. Compassion. An ability to moderate in discipline matters and be a neutral ear.
Your management task is to translate the ability and drive that saw you promoted into a willingness to help turn An Garda Síochána into a leading 21st century policing service.
This reform work will be driven and managed centrally, with a comprehensive support network available to you all, but have no doubt that it’s your example Gardaí will be turning to.
I’m asking that you show them there’s no such thing as too little effort, or a bad idea. Show them they work for an organisation that cares for the people they serve. Show them they can be proud of who they work for. And that every day - every single day - will offer them the opportunity to do something exceptional.
Not many careers offer that. Not many careers allow a young member, by simple dogged application, to change history and vindicate a human being - but that's what a career in An Garda Siochana allows.
Isn't it amazing, the impact on public trust that one good Guard can make? Isn’t it amazing that, after several years of being pummelled, we can acknowledge all the criticism, but be able to point to a single example and say, with confidence:
"This may be exceptional in its surrounding circumstances, but this is the kind of commitment good Guards deliver in every townland, village and city in Ireland, all day, every day."
As managers within a service staffed by the brightest and best, we must provide a policing and national security service, while delivering change on an unprecedented scale.
Unprecedented change in an organisation like An Garda Siochana doesn't start with a Commissioner having a light-bulb moment.
It starts with Guards at every level making input.
It starts with the people we serve making demands.
It starts with the changing statistics of Irish life.
On all of these are the priorities of our change plan.
Those priorities must be delivered in a standard professional way right across the organisation, and the Strategic Transformation Office has been established to ensure precisely that.
In May we will have 100 new recruits going out to stations across the country to continue their training. A further 200 students in the College will shortly follow a similar path.
They’ve received training that is innovative, unique, and up to the minute. Training grounded in the day to day realities of policing.
And, just to warn you, like us at the same stage - They. Know.
So that should make your life a bit easier. (!)
In all seriousness though, the influx of new recruits means that we have an injection of fresh blood into An Garda Síochána, with people with diverse backgrounds and experiences looking to make a difference in the place they’re needed most – on the ground.
It will be your role to shape and guide that new enthusiasm and influx of knowledge when it lands with you.
It will be your role to remind them, every day, that their learning is not complete. That their learning is never complete.
It will be your guidance that'll maximise their potential for the good of the organisation.
When it comes to resources, just as we are doing with the number of recruits we'd like to see go through Templemore every year, we are making the case at the highest levels for more resources – whether that is people, equipment, cars, stations or ICT.
The Garda Inspectorate rightly recognised that we are about 30 years behind where we need to be when it comes to ICT.
The temptation would be to use that finding to rush in and say we want this latest shiny new expensive tech toy, and that one, and that one --- like a teenager let loose with the credit card in an Apple store.
Instead, after taking on-board internal and external views, we developed an ICT Vision and Roadmap for the next five years outlining the priority projects, their benefits, when we believe we can deliver them, and what they're going to cost.
In this, we are being guided and assisted by an ICT Steering Group, including the Government’s Chief Information Officer and representatives of the Department of Justice and DEPR.
This co-ordinated and imaginative plan will help us deliver a service for the 21st Century. One that makes the most effective use of the huge amounts of data we have, to ensure we place our people where we need them when we need them.
A service that tracks and predicts criminal activity, that responds effectively to calls from the public, and gives our people on the ground the ability to make informed decisions quickly.
A service that provides the public with better access to crime prevention material and different ways to contact us.
A service that ensures frontline managers such as yourselves have easy access to the data you need. It will give you as managers a better insight into the latest crime patterns and trends in your areas, and enable you to collaborate more effectively with our people and our stakeholders.
Importantly, it'll reduce the burden of administration so people can spend more time in the field rather than being stuck behind a desk.
We will have a new approach to delivering ICT in An Garda Síochána, based on what is best for the organisation in the long-term rather than what is expedient or what can be squeezed in under the annual budget.
This won't solve the issue of paperwork today or tomorrow. But it will set out to reduce the bureaucratic burden on you, while ensuring we maintain strong oversight and compliance. Not easy. Not do-able overnight. But we’ll get it done and get it done right.
I’m conscious that my allotted time could be better utilised by speaking with you instead of at you, so I'm going to wrap up and take some questions.
I am not going to promise you the earth, moon and stars. And, in fairness, that's not what you are asking for.
I can’t solve all the problems you are experiencing – and I don’t think that would have been possible even during the boom years.
What I can give you is a clear commitment that we are going to change for the better.
Initial progress is obvious.
More than 500 new vehicles introduced to the fleet since this time last year. That’s over 500 cars sent to stations around the country that were crying out for them. Yes, many of those cars are replacing cars being retired. Yes, I know that we need more cars. But our fleet is in better condition now then it has been in a good many years.
We recently promoted a number of Chief Superintendents and Superintendents. Interviews for Sergeants positions have started and interviews for Inspector roles should begin shortly. The two Deputies roles are being filled.
Not earth-shattering moves. Just positive steps in the right direction.
Some changes will take longer than others, some might fail, and some might not deliver their full promise at the first time of asking, so let's apply patience and flexibility.
Your views and feedback will continue inform the roll-out of the transformation programme. We will also work harder to keep you informed as we make the changes.
Following the Irish male rugby team’s recent success in landing the Six Nations Championship, I was fascinated to read about Joe Schmidt's philosophy of getting little details right, of finding something and being the very best at it.
Being focused on the small details is an approach that can translate to our own working life while these reforms are being delivered, and will ensure we are providing a 21st Century police service the country deserves.
I will continue to fight for increased budgets, resources and new Gardaí from the Government.
I will fight for what we need. But let's be clear on what we have.
We have 16,000 hardworking dedicated members, staff and Reserves.
We have people willing, every day, to go above and beyond their duty.
Example? The water protests. Many of you in this room and the people who report to you have experienced unprecedented levels of personal abuse, both in policing situations and through social media. They've taken it as part of their protection of the right of people to make a living and the right to peaceful protest.
We have people who are hungry for change.
We have the foundations to ensure that An Garda Síochána becomes a shining beacon for all we serve, and I’m counting on you to continue to provide the spark for that beacon.
Thank you again for today’s invitation, and I’ll happily take some questions.