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'HIV tests, regular assaults and identifying bodies': The life of a 22-year old garda

The struggles facing new officers who earn under €24,000 a year.

Image: RollingNews.ie

A YOUNG GARDA tonight shares what it is like to be a young member despite all the challenges the force faces.

Gardaí were on the cusp of an historic strike last month which was called off at the 11th hour.

Those members, who were willing to break the law, wished to protect the newer officers whose pay has been cut to €23,750 a year.

But this officer told TheJournal.ie that it is his desire to help people which is why he has decided to go down this career path. Despite all the obstacles which he faces, this officer hopes to be in the job for life and is confident that morale can come back to the force.

‘I’ve been spat at and tested for HIV’

Sometimes, however, he has to pull himself away from what he is seeing. Despite being happy with the support structures in place, this member said it can be difficult to deal with the task at hand.

The young man said: “I have seen more dead bodies than I can count. I have cut down people hanging from trees and staircases, disassociating from the horrible task while at the same time trying to comfort family members.

“I have identified the body of a baby who died before he was 10 days old. I have attended fatal collisions where the scene looks more like a butcher shop than a human being.

“I have repeatedly brought people to court only to see them commit the same crimes again.

Ballistic vest with a shirt and tie

“I have been assaulted and spat at. I have been tested for HIV after getting injured arresting a violent drug user.

“I have removed children from violent families.

“I have had bottles and rocks thrown at me. Every day when I go to work I put on a ballistic vest and belt to keep me safe while I try to protect the public. At the same time I have to wear suit trousers and a tie because the government don’t understand what we do.”

8/2/2016. Gangland Murders Crime Scenes Gardaí attend the scene of a fatal shooting Source: Sasko Lazarov/RollingNews.ie

Recently, new measures were put in place by garda management to help members deal with traumatic events.

Gardaí can now avail of a new phone counselling service. There are also peer support structures in place so anyone struggling can get help.

Despite the introduction of these supports , there are still a number of issues facing young officers which need to addressed, according to the anonymous garda.

Last month’s strikes were averted when the GRA and AGSI, groups which represent rank-and-file as well as middle management gardaí, said they will ballot its members on recommendations made by the Labour Court.

They were offered the following:

  • Rent allowance will be increased by €50o from January
  • A payment of €15 per annual leave day will be brought in from April worth between €490 and €510 a year.
  • Gardaí will also be paid for what are known as pre-tour briefings, a 15 minute handover between shifts, worth €1,500 a year.

3/11/2016. Garda Talks Over Strikes GRA President Ciarán O'Neill talking to the media while arriving at the Work Place Relations Commission in Dublin last month. Source: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

Despite what the member described as being a very welcome offer, he said there were still so many hurdles facing the force.

Taking garda pay out of the equation, the officer detailed the following changes he would like to see introduced:

New uniform – I don’t know what idiot decided we should wear a tie and suit trousers when we are responding to calls. I’m guessing it was someone that now sits in an office and doesn’t have to arrest violent prisoners, jump over walls etc.
New vehicles – purpose built vehicles rather than a family sedan with some stickers and lights.
Civilisation of positions – less administration duties for gardaí to get more out on the streets.
New ballistic vest that will actually stop a 9mm. One that holds our other equipment such as handcuffs on it would be even better.
Promotions – promote the best people for the job, not the ones that have friends in high places.
Fitness – some might disagree but I think there should be annual fitness testing for gardaí. It is a tough job that requires a certain level of fitness to do well.

3/11/2016. Garda Strikes Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan Source: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

Even though the officer is facing years of being underpaid and overworked, he is hopeful for the future and said there are a lot of positives at his station.

There are a lot of people there to help him when he doesn’t know what exactly is to do and there is a great camaraderie in his station where colleagues look out for each other.

Frustration

He added: “I honestly feel like there has been brilliant supervision in my station. I have heard it is different in some stations but my station has been very good. You are often left on your own due to manpower but I find there’s always people I can call for some help.

“ I think the only thing that would make me leave is frustration if the organisation doesn’t progress. The gardaí are at least 10 years behind the British police in terms of uniform, resources, fitness and promotions.

“It can be tough. Not very many people have the same experiences. I find you become numb to death for the most part. The only time a body will bother me these days is if it is especially traumatic or it’s a baby.”

The GRA has balloted its members on whether or not to accept the new deal.

It is expected that this decision will be made in the coming weeks.

Read: Man who was denied a judge’s seat after racism allegations set to be Trump’s attorney general >

Read: ‘She was a lovely person’: Tributes to Mayo woman who died after becoming ill on flight >

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