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Fears that rural areas will lack resources after 'out of the blue' garda shake-up

An Garda Síochana reduced its garda divisions and its regions as part of a restructuring model.

Image: SIPA USA/PA Images

THE GARDA REPRESENTATIVE ASSOCIATION (GRA) has said it has “no confidence” in the Government’s commitment to policing reform, claiming it was not consulted about the location of new divisional HQs.

An Garda Síochana announced yesterday it had reduced its garda divisions from 28 to 19 and reducing its regions from six to four as part of a restructuring model.

“To hear the location of seven downgraded HQs announced out of the blue, is a disgraceful way to approach this hugely sensitive issue,” said GRA President Jim Mulligan.

“Garda management and the Government appear to be completely oblivious to the entitlement of gardaí and the communities we police to have been consulted.

And there has been no regard whatsoever for workers who found out through the media that they could soon have a new workplace 100 miles or more away from home. Yet again, gardaí are treated as second-class workers.

The GRA said it is concerned that places further away from HQs will be underresourced – particularly isolated rural areas.

According to Garda Commissioner Drew Harris, the operating model will see larger divisions with more resources.

“It will deliver increased garda visibility in communities, as well as more localised services.”

Harris said that superintendents will be empowered to make decisions on how policing is best delivered within their divisions.

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The shake-up will also see 1,500 more gardaí hired by 2021, including 800 to perform new roles within the force, as well as the recruitment of 1,265 garda staff.

The divisional changes are also expected to reduce the administrative burden on uniformed gardaí by creating ‘business services’ units, which will tackle more bureaucratic aspects of policing such as paperwork and financing.

However, the GRA says that feedback it’s received from the divisions where the operational model is being piloted shows administration actually increased because gardaí were “bringing timesheets and other documents from one station to another in garda cars due to the inadequacy of IT infrastructure”.

The feedback also shows the plan for managing investigations is failing with frontline gardaí still investigating crimes because detective units are under-staffed.

Mulligan says the GRA will continue to support the Policing for the Future reform plan but that yesterday’s announcement shows “garda management and the Government do not share that commitment and we fear we will end up with a half-developed, half-implemented plan that serves no-one’s interest.”

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Adam Daly

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