Minister McEntee Secures Justice Budget 2024 to Build Stronger and Safer Communities
The Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee welcomed the significant increase in Budget allocation of over €3.27 billion in current expenditure plus €274m for capital projects for the Justice sector in 2024, with a particular focus on building stronger, safer communities.
This unprecedented budget will strengthen the work of An Garda Síochána and the criminal justice sector to prevent and detect crime and protect communities; allow for the establishment of the new statutory agency to support victims and work to eliminate domestic, sexual and gender-based violence; and fund the nationwide rollout of Community Safety Partnerships.
Budget 2024 continues to build investment in diverting young people away from involvement in crime, to make youth diversion projects available in every community in Ireland for the first time, with an increased focus on weekend activities and marginalised young people.
It will also invest in our prisons, including new staff in a number of areas such as a Rapid Prison Building Unit to drive the Government’s intention to provide over 400 new prison spaces over the next 5 years.
It also supports the development of effective alternatives to prison through a number of multi-agency projects which will also assist in dealing with the acute pressures in the prison system.
Funding continues to grow in respect of the Department of Justice work in responding to the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine and in processing increased applications for international protection. Making more decisions and adjudicating on appeals quicker, while maintaining fair procedures, delivers for customers and relieves pressure elsewhere, supporting a balanced system.
Budget 2024 supports the rollout of critical modernisation and digitisation needs across the Justice sector and facilitates further growth of the Data Protection Commission to safeguard people’s privacy.
Minister McEntee said, “my top priority is building stronger, safer communities and that is reflected in the budget announced for An Garda Síochána, which has grown considerably since I took office in 2020. The year to date has seen three classes of recruits entering Templemore to begin their training as Gardaí and that will continue with new cohorts entering their training next week and in December. Budget 2024 provides the funding to continue this growth and ongoing recruitment throughout 2024 will see between 800 and 1,000 new trainees enter the Garda College.”
“To ensure this, I am particularly pleased that today’s Budget funds an increase in the Garda trainee allowance to €305 – a two-thirds increase on the current level in place since 2011 These increased payments will begin on 1 January, but with a backdated lump sum payment in January for those in the college between now and January. A new Garda recruitment campaign will open shortly, and in early 2024 An Garda Síochána will launch a new recruitment campaign for the Garda Reserve – the first such recruitment campaign since 2017.”
“More Gardaí proactively patrolling in our cities, towns and rural areas as well more Garda staff, maintains law and order and makes everyone feel safer. A 25% increase in Garda Overtime for 2024 will allow for continued high visibility policing, and the recruitment of 250 additional Garda staff will make sure that Garda members are freed up for frontline duties. Protecting our citizens is much wider than policing, and I want to empower communities to have a say in matters relating to their own safety. In 2024, total funding of €7.9m will create a new National Office for Community Safety, and roll out Community Safety Partnerships to plan the community’s own safety priorities in every area of the country. I am really pleased that the Community Safety Innovation Fund, which reinvests the proceeds of crime as seized by the Criminal Assets Bureau, has been increased to €3.75m.”
“The Dublin North Inner City plan published earlier this month, along with earlier iterations in Longford and Waterford, are good examples of this fresh approach. The Dublin CSP sets out practical and pragmatic actions on how to improve community safety – recommendations around Garda presence, enhanced youth services, businesses taking initiatives such as the new Community Safety Wardens, and the local authority playing its part too.”
“Tackling Domestic, Sexual and Gender Based Violence is an absolute priority for me as Minister for Justice – both providing victim-centred supports and services and ensuring perpetrators are punished. This Budget provides an extra €12m for 2024, a 25% increase – record funding for combatting domestic, sexual and gender based violence. This will support the implementation of the Zero Tolerance plan, and see us establish a new State agency in this area.”
“This €12 million will greatly assist the new agency in meeting the acute needs for services throughout the country, including supporting the delivery of refuges. The agency will have a core budget of €43m next year which will increase nationwide coverage, and will boost the momentum in implementing the ambitious goals set out in the national strategy.”
“We have all been shocked and concerned by the recent rise in fatalities on our roads, and I recently announced extra funding to increase the number of GoSafe speed cameras to 9,000 a month. In this budget, we are funding these increased hours for the duration of 2024. The Garda Commissioner has also told me that the interim roster recently agreed between management and staff associations will also ensure greater visibility of the Roads Policing Unit. Taken together with strong ongoing Garda recruitment, I hope these measures will help save lives on our roads.”
“I am also pleased to have secured funding of €9m to make progress in increasing the fees payable to legal professionals for criminal legal aid by 10% in early 2024. In conjunction with the increase in fees, the intention is to build on the strengths of the criminal legal aid scheme while addressing any issues relating to how it is structured. Engagement will now begin with the legal professions for the purpose of working together to identify reforms to the fees, including automation of payments, which will support improved efficiency and governance in the administration of the scheme, and chart a path to greater transparency and fairness in the level of fees paid under criminal legal aid. These are necessary reforms which will further support the reforms being introduced in the Criminal Legal Aid Bill.”
Minister of State for Law Reform, James Browne TD, said, “year on year since 2020, we have been substantially increasing the budget available for youth diversion measures. This year we have secured a further €2.9m which is a 10% increase bringing the total budget to over €33m. This funding will mean we can provide full nationwide coverage of Youth Diversion Projects for the first time. Just as crucial is increasing weekend availability and how we will be able to assist those vulnerable children aged between 8 and 11. This will also fund more measures targeted at supporting families, working with schools and those youths who have proven harder to engage.”
“Every young person diverted away from a life of crime creates a new pathway to education, training and employment as well as personal development and sports activities. Investment in prevention and diversion reduces crime and the costs of crime. I am also delighted to see more than doubling of funding for the soon to be established Gambling Regulatory Authority which is a key Programme for Government commitment. The provision of €4m allocation for 2024 will support the CEO Designate to create the Authority.”