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National Security: 1,000 new gardaí, and defence funding to include money for primary air radar

Defence will increase to €1.174bn which is a €67m rise from the 2022 allocation.

Image: Alamy Stock Photo

Updated Sep 27th 2022, 6:10 PM

NATIONAL SECURITY FUNDING in this year’s budget includes 1,000 new gardaí, extra civilian garda staff and a major increase in the Defence budget to include primary radar.

In the Justice budget allocation, as announced by Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath there will also be a €5m increase in the garda overtime spend.

The Government has said this is a key part of measures aimed at tackling anti-social behaviour and other crime.

The Budget, announced this afternoon by Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe, includes funding for a range of measures in An Garda Síochána.

1,000 new gardaí will be recruited into Templemore next year to boost the force’s numbers, while 430 new garda civilian staff will be used to help free up frontline gardaí for core policing duties.

It has also made provision for an increase in overtime to help gardaí tackle crime and anti-social behaviour.

Last week, the issue of garda resourcing resurfaced after a garda car was rammed by another vehicle in Cherry Orchard, injuring two gardaí.

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee announced plans to increase “high-visibility” policing in certain areas, including Dublin city centre.

There is also a €9m increase, a 22% increase, to tackle domestic, sexual, gender-based violence and funds to support victims and implement the Zero Tolerance Plan.

Youth Justice funding has been increased by €2.5m to €24m to divert young people from crime.

Justice Minister Helen McEntee said: “Everyone deserves to be safe and feel safe – and we are determined to build stronger, safer communities. 

“Today’s Budget is a clear commitment to building stronger, safer communities; supporting and strengthening An Garda Síochána and also towards supporting victims of crime and Domestic, Sexual and Gender Based Violence.

“We recognise the devastating impact crime has, not only on the individuals whose lives have been affected, but on the wider community. I am committed increasing the number of Gardaí and Garda staff, but also investing in the resources they need to do their vital work protecting the public.”

The Garda Representative Association (GRA) welcomed the announcement and said there is an urgent need for more operational gardaí due to issues with recruitment and the retention of gardai.

“However, in 2021 we were promised 800 new recruits this year and we have yet to see a large proportion of that number coming through training and that target will simply not be achieved this year.

“We expect that garda management will make these new 1,000 positions a priority for the safety and wellbeing of our members and the public, but also that they continue to address issues within the force to make a career in AGS a safer and more attractive one to potential recruits,” a GRA statement said. 

The GRA statement went onto to say in its statement that it was demanding the immediate introduction of new equipment including body worn cameras. 

“Critically, we hope that these 1,000 new recruits will be in addition to the 800 promised last year to bring our membership some way into line with similar European jurisdictions,” it added. 

Defence

For Defence the budget will see €1.174 billion in Defence Group funding as outlined in Budget 2023.

This allocation represents an increase of €67 million on the corresponding 2022 budget allocation.

The Department of Defence has said that this provides a financial platform for the Defence Sector to initiate the required transformation, as recommended by the Commission on the Defence Forces (CODF).

It will also assist in bringing our Defence capabilities closer to European norms, while also ensuring the ongoing Defence Forces capacity to deliver on all roles assigned by Government, both at home and overseas.

One key area of the budget, as revealed by McGrath during his speech in the Dáil, is the project to build a primary radar capability for the Irish Defence Forces. 

This will enable Irish security forces to see inbound aircraft to Irish airspace – a capability that was identified as a key first step by the CODF. 

Minister for Defence Simon Coveney welcomed the the increase of €35 million in capital funding, raising the overall capital allocation to €176 million, an increase of almost 25% and the highest ever capital allocation provided to Defence. 

“The increased allocation represents a significant endorsement of the work of the Commission and demonstrates the Government’s strong commitment to support the transformation of the Defence Forces into a modern, agile military force, capable of responding to increasingly complex security threats,” Coveney said. 

Coveney said that Government’s 2023 capital funding allocation of €176 million for Defence is the highest ever level of capital funding provided to the sector.

“(This) clearly represents an expression of confidence from Government in the capacity of the Defence Organisation to progress and upgrade military capabilities having regard to emerging priorities, operational requirements and changes in technology.

“This is an ongoing iterative process which will include an immediate exploration of the identified need to develop a primary radar capability,” the Minister added. 

The Defence Group pay and pensions budget has increased to €823 million and will be used to meet the ongoing pay and allowance costs of the Defence Forces.

The Army Pensions Vote has increased by €10 million to €281 million and will provide for the pensions and gratuities of over 13,000 ex-members of the Defence Forces and certain dependents. 

Reaction

Cathal Berry, an Independent Dáil TD and former officer in the Army Ranger Wing said he was glad to see funding increased but “it is not enough”. 

“I welcome the meagre improvement in defence spending but it is meagre coming from a very low base. 

“We are still playing Russian roulette with Irish sovereignty and security of the State – we were defenceless yesterday and we are still defenceless today.

“We are spending way less than our European partners and we are falling way behind.

“The Government action plan arising from the CODF report suggested that it would be €85m increase per year but instead it is €67m as announced today.

“People are frustrated, the membership of the Defence Forces is plummeting and we are losing 10 troops a week – more needs to be done,” he said.  

Conor King of the Representative Association of Commissioned Officers said the budget did not address the retention crisis.

“Coming from such a low base, any budgetary increase, no matter how small, is welcome.

However, the Defence Forces will never be an employer of choice unless it introduces urgent retention initiatives such as agreed implementation of the working time directive with necessary health and safety protections, and suitable pension provisions to cater for forced early retirement.

“Without these fundamental improvements to conditions of service, any announcement of capital expenditure or glossy all singing all dancing recruitment campaign will be in vain,” he said.

King said that an increase of 6% on 2022 represents “a modest down payment” on the projected 50% increase by 2028.

“Given the problems facing the DF and the worsening global security situation, a real sense of urgency towards implementing the Commission recommendations with a front loading of investment towards LOA 2 could reasonably have been expected.

“Those of us optimistic enough to hope for this approach might be disappointed,” he said.

Mark Keane, President of PDFORRA, which represents rank and file members of the Permanent Defence Forces welcomed the increase but said it does not address the crisis in retention. 

“Any announcement of more funding is to be welcomed but any investment in equipment like radars, ships and aircraft must deal with the first problem which is having enough staff to crew them. 

“The Defence Forces is at its lowest membership – there needs to be a coherent approach to retention. When that is dealt with then we can move forward on equipment,” he said. 

With additional reporting from Lauren Boland. 

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