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garda conference

AGSI's 'skippers and cigs' hit out at 'never-ending and over-burdensome oversight'

The Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors will begin its three day annual conference in Westport today.

LAST UPDATE | 25 Mar

THE GROUP REPRESENTING garda middle management will call for a major overhaul of the garda discipline system at its annual delegate conference.  

The Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (‘skippers and cigs’) as they’re known in Garda parlance) will begin its three day meeting in Westport, Co Mayo today. 

The Garda Commissioner Drew Harris and the Minister for Justice Helen McEntee will attend the conference. 

Relations between Garda Headquarters and AGSI are far more cordial than those with the Garda Representative Association which has voted against extending an invite to the Commissioner to their conference in April.

This afternoon Ronan Clogher, the AGSI Deputy General Secretary said that the organisation was 4,000 short of the need to do the job.  

In a statement today the AGSI said that top of the agenda for the 170 delegates who represent 31 AGSI Branches will be the recruitment and retention crisis along with ongoing transformation challenges and what AGSI describe as “never-ending and over-burdensome oversight”.

But it is the AGSI call for a review of the Garda suspension policy that will dominate debate.

It comes just days after revelations about the suspension of a garda for giving a bicycle to an elderly man during Covid-19 laid bare serious questions about how the policy is implemented. 

McEntee has said the disciplinary process for the garda at the centre of the bicycle case took “longer than anybody would like”.

There has been extensive criticism of the garda discipline system and comments by Drew Harris in the wake of the case.

The Journal has covered extensively the case of a number of gardaí suspended in Limerick as part of an investigation into the alleged cancelling of penalty point road policing tickets. There are more than 100 gardaí currently suspended – some of whom are out of work for a number of years.

At present all discipline sanctions are decided internally by senior management in An Garda Síochána. Suspensions are also handled internally. The Justice Minister has refused to answer questions regarding the practice. 

President of the AGSI Paul Curran said his organisation will call this week for an independent oversight mechanism for discipline.

The AGSI said the length of time that investigations are taking is unacceptable and the level of communication to suspended members dismal.

“The motivation for this call is to give confidence to members that the suspension policy is fair, transparent, and accountable.

“We understand the need for a robust policy, but members must have the confidence that there are appropriate oversight mechanisms in place,” he said. 

The AGSI statement said that members are suffering from “change fatigue”.

It has said that gardaí are frustrated “as they seek faster decision-making on key issues and enhanced internal collaboration and communication”.

Deputy General Secretary Ronan Clogher said there were very clear agenda items that required direct responses and “we hope the Minister and the Garda Commissioner provide commitments or answers at conference”.

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He said the two major issues at conference are the “juggernaut” problem in regard to pension entitlements for retiring members who joined after 1994 and the suspension and discipline problem. 

Clogher, speaking at the conference opening today, said that new crime management systems had removed gardaí off the streets and turned their work into a “statistical monster”.

He cautioned that An Garda Síochána could turn towards the English model of re-active policing rather than its current proactive method and that this would adversely affect garda relationship with the public. 

Clogher believes that the minimum amount of gardaí needed at the moment is 18,000 – at present there are 14,091.

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