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GRA conference: Calls for action to combat spike in assaults on gardaí

The Garda Representative Association will hold it’s first in person conference since 2019 today.

Image: Alamy Stock Photo

THE LEADER OF the country’s biggest garda representative body has called on Minister for Justice Helen McEntee to work with them to reduce a 50% increase in assaults on gardaí. 

Frank Thornton, President of the Garda Representative Association (GRA) was speaking ahead of the group’s annual conference in Killarney today. 

The theme of this year’s event, which has been limited to a smaller number of attendees due to Covid-19 cases, is “Communities Matter… So Do We”.

“One of the many challenges that we have faced over the past year has been the sharp rise in assaults on our membership.

“Assaults on Gardaí in the five-year period to 2020 rose by over 50%, with almost half being as a direct result of such injuries being suffered by Gardaí on duty.

“I have said many times previously that there is never an excuse for violent acts against Gardai regardless of the situation presenting or unknowns that members have to respond to.

“Later, I will be addressing the Minister for Justice in more detail on this subject, and how the Association believes that the Department of Justice can work with us to change perceptions and deliver tangible deterrents to address this ongoing affront to our members,” Thornton said. 

In October, in response to a Parliamentary question by TD Neale Richmond, Minister Heather Humphreys revealed that more than 4,200 gardaí were assaulted while on duty over the past five years.

GRA figures show between 40-50% of all injuries suffered by gardaí were as the result of an assault. The injury rate among other professions nationally here is on average 3.4%.

Those figures show that garda divisions in Donegal, Cork City, Dublin South Central and Laois/Offaly as the areas where most gardaí were assaulted. 

Thornton also spoke about the impact of the pandemic on the force.

“The global pandemic gripped our country, rampaged through our communities, and invaded our homes. As we convene here this morning, we remember those who lost their lives due to this horrific virus. We think of our colleagues who lost friends and family members, our thoughts and prayers are with them at this time.

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“Our work-life pattern was turned upside down over the course of a weekend in March 2020. On a professional front, we frantically adjusted and adapted to another new rostering pattern while in our personal lives we were forced to make new arrangements for childminding.

“The challenges that confronted us have been met with a strong resilience by our members. In the years ahead when we look back, we can justifiably remember these years as some of the proudest in our Association’s history.

“In difficult and uncertain conditions, rank and file Gardaí across the country in every community in Ireland put their shoulders to the wheel, remaining a key cog in our communities, carrying out their duties to protect and serve with pride and professionalism,” he said. 

The conference will discuss a number of subjects including a shortfall in manpower in a number of districts. 

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