Drug drive numbers up
The number of arrests for drug driving have more than doubled this year, compared to last year, the Dail has been told.
Deputy Kieran O’Donnell has asked the Minister for details of plans to give extra resources to the gardai to increase drug driving testing.
Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee, said that garda enforcement figures indicate that 1,216 drug driving arrests were made in the first 6 months of 2020, compared to 591 in the first half of 2018.
This represents a 106% increase in drug driving arrests, despite a 70% reduction in traffic during this period due to COVID-19 restrictions, she said.
Minister McEntee said that Budget 2021 would allow for an extra 1,120 gardai/gardai staff.
The Minister said that while An Garda Síochána has been testing Irish drivers for drugs, with the assistance of the Medical Bureau of Road Safety (MBRS), since 1999, the drug driving provisions in the Road Traffic Act 2016 were commenced by the Minister of Transport on 12 April 2017.
She continued: “One of the key measures in the legislation provides for Preliminary Drug Testing, which enables Gardaí to test motorists at the roadside, whom they suspect of driving under the influence of drugs, and An Garda Síochána can establish roadside checkpoints, known as Mandatory Intoxicant Checkpoints (MITs), to test drivers for the presence of both alcohol and drugs.The operation of Mandatory Intoxicant Testing (MIT) checkpoints and the enforcement of road traffic legislation are operational matters for the Garda Commissioner. The Minister said she has no role in these matters but is “assured, however, that Garda management keeps the distribution of resources under continual review in the context of crime trends and policing priorities, to ensure their optimum use.”
She said the Government is committed to ensuring that An Garda Síochána has the maximum level of resources available to perform its policing duties and that An Garda Síochána has been allocated an unprecedented budget of €1.952 billion for 2021. “This level of funding is enabling sustained, ongoing recruitment of Garda members and staff. As a result, there are now approximately 14,600 Garda members and over 3,000 Garda staff nationwide and Budget 2021 will allow for the recruitment of up to 620 new Gardaí and an extra 500 Garda staff.”
The Minister said this recruitment is supporting the redeployment of Gardaí from administrative to operational policing duties, where their training and expertise can be used to best effect.
An additional €22m has been provided for Garda ICT to bring the total allocation to over €70m for the second year in a row. There will also be continued investment in the Garda fleet of €8m in addition to the highest ever investment of approximately €15m in the Garda Transport Fleet in 2020 – a proportion of which relates to the Garda Covid response.