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File image of gardaí on Dublin's O'Connell Street.
Justice Committee

‘Record number’ of gardaí leaving the force, with at least 150 due to quit this year says GRA

The Joint Committee for engagement on Policing Matters is due to meet in Leinster House later today.

THE GARDA REPRESENTATIVE Association will today tell the Joint Committee on Justice that a “record number” of gardaí are due to quit the force this year.

The Joint Committee for engagement on Policing Matters is due to meet in Leinster House today at 4pm.

The Committee will hear from the GRA, as well as the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors, the Restaurants Association of Ireland, and retired Garda Sergeant Anthony Gallagher.

In its opening statement, the GRA is set to tell the committee that it expects at least 150 gardaí to leave the force this year, with 116 members having resigned already.

Last year, 107 members of An Garda Síochána resigned from the force.

Speaking ahead of the meeting this afternoon, Committee Cathaoirleach James Lawless said that the Committee is “very aware of the impact that crime continues to have on society in Ireland”.

He added that the meeting will be an opportunity to hear from a number of key stakeholders in relation to challenges regarding recruitment and retention in the gardaí, as well as general morale within the force.

The Committee will also discuss policing in Dublin City and policing of protests.

‘Extreme concern’

Ronan Slevin, the general secretary of the GRA, will tell the Committee that there is “extreme concern” in the force and that a “growing number are simply walking away”.

He says this is due to a combination of a lack of recognition, poor pension entitlements for new recruits, workload, and an unfair disciplinary process.

Slevin says “all contribute to the disillusionment of the modern Garda”.

This month alone, ten garda members have given their notice to quit.

Slevin will also remark that an increase in the training allowance from €184 to €305 “will do little or nothing to attract the most suitably qualified candidates for a career in An Garda Síochána”.

He will also note that new trainee numbers are set to fall “woefully short”, with just over 600 trainees this year as opposed to the target of 1,000.

Slevin will also call for a “better work/life balance around rosters” with the aim of “maximising resources through an efficient timetable, satisfactory to all”.

‘Dramatic reductions’

The Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors will tell the Committee that “An Garda Síochána have seen dramatic reductions in the last twenty years, with the most recent 2022 competition attracting only approximately five thousand applicants”.

It will also state that it is “clear” that young people do not view joining the force “as an attractive career option”, adding: “An Garda  Síochána throughout its one hundred year history has never experienced such a difficult recruitment environment, even in the midst of the Celtic Tiger when there was similar full employment figures.”

In its opening statement, the AGSI blames new pension regulations, a lack of affordable housing in major urban areas, retention issues, “excessive Bureaucratic procedures” and a “misuse of social media at almost every public interaction gardaí are now involved in” as factors in this demise.

It also notes rostering as a “challenging” issue and will call for, among other things, the establishment of an Independent Pay Review Body for An Garda Síochána, the introduction of minimum sentences for those who assault Gardaí and emergency workers, and “strict” Right to Disconnect policies.

Elsewhere, retired Garda Sergeant Anthony Gallagher will call for exit interviews to deal with retention issues, as well as greater garda resources to deal with crime in Dublin City.

“The method of policing of O’Connell Street is a barometer on how policing nationally is judged,” says Gallagher, “if we are not capable of sufficiently policing our National Promenade this will have an influence on public opinion and the perception of safety.”

Gallagher will also highlight “panhandling” as an issue in Dublin City, remarking that “it is almost impossible to enjoy alfresco dining outside any premises without being intruded upon by panhandlers or addicts approaching customers”.

He will add: “There is also an undertone to begging outside and obstructing entrances to retail stores, the staff inside the shops are afraid of them as they also turn to shoplifting, it is intimidating for staff.”

‘Customers feel less safe’

Meanwhile, Adrian Cummins, CEO of the Restaurants Association Ireland, will speak to the Committee on the impact crime and anti-social behaviour has on restaurants, pubs and cafes.

Cummins undertook a survey of Dublin-based members in advance of the meeting and he will tell the Committee that “100% of the survey’s respondents said Dublin city is less safe today than it was pre-pandemic”.

In his opening statement, Cummins will remark that “customers feel less safe venturing into the city in recent times, particularly at night”.

Cummins will call for “increased Garda visibility on the streets of Dublin”, a “zero-tolerance policy towards the public sale and consumption of illegal drugs”, as well as measures to tackle the “well-documented taxi shortages and a lack of reliable public transport options”.

“We should be urgently looking at ways of increasing the number of options available to those visiting Dublin city’s restaurants and pubs to get to and from the city safely,” says Cummins.

 

 

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