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Rank-and-file officers accuse government of 'building garda reform plan on quicksand'

The GRA pointed out that €15 million for the Trump and Pence visits will have to come out of the additional €81 million announced today.

Probationary gardaí in Templemore.
Probationary gardaí in Templemore.
Image: Eamonn Farrell

Updated Oct 8th 2019, 8:31 PM

RANK-AND-FILE gardaí have questioned how the government will be able to implement planned reforms for An Garda Síochána with the level of funding announced in the Budget for next year.

Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe earlier announced the garda budget will be increased by €81 million and there will be an addition of 700 new recruits to the force next year. Donohoe said civilian staff will also allow more gardaí to return to frontline policing.

Total investment in justice and policing will see an increase of €120 million next year, a 4.7% increase on last year’s Budget. The garda budget for 2019 was €1.76 billion.

New garda offices will be built in Dublin to replace the Dublin Metropolitan Region headquarters at Harcourt Square. There will also be further investment put into garda IT to advance their “digital strategy”, the minister said. 

An extra €39 million will be allocated to the justice sector to fund direct provision costs and “greater levels of activity” in the courts and prisons. 

Commenting on the Budget measures announced today, Garda Representative Association (GRA) President Jim Mulligan said the additional funding will have to be spread so thinly it is difficult to see how it can meet all the plans that have been announced for policing reform.

“Gardaí are apparently supposed to operate a pro-arrest approach to street violence, implement a new operating model with more specialist units and police the growing level of criminality on the border and elsewhere against a backdrop of an overtime ban,” he said.

The new uniform for next year will cost €12 million and commitments will need to be met under the Public Sector Stability Agreement.
All of this will need to come from the €81 million as well as the €15 – €18 million taken this year from the garda budget to pay for the visits of Donald Trump and Mike Pence. The arithmetic does not look good at all.

“So, this is yet another dent to our confidence in the government’s intention to reform policing,” he said. 

Mulligan said the ring-fenced for ICT and the replacement building for Harcourt Terrace. However he said he was concerned that there was no mention of funds for renovating and replacing the “many dilapidated stations” around the country such as Clonmel, Sligo and Newcastlewest.

“Macroom is supposed to become a divisional HQ, but there’s no mention of funding for it,” he said. 

“Yet again our request for a ring-fenced training budget has not been delivered so this will again need to be met from the €81 million. The government policing reform plan looks ever more like it is being built on quicksand.”

- With reporting by Michelle Hennessy.

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