Claim that cuts have not hit policing disputed

Acting commissioner tells PAC t losing resources an opportunity for force to be more efficient

Acting Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan arriving at Leinster House on   Thursday for an Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee meeting. Photograph: Frank Miller/The Irish Times

Acting Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan arriving at Leinster House on Thursday for an Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee meeting. Photograph: Frank Miller/The Irish Times

Fri, Jul 11, 2014, 01:02

A claim by acting Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan that the loss of almost 1,500 gardaí in recent years has in no way affected the force’s policing capabilities has been questioned by the main Garda staff bodies.

The Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) said its members had been struggling while manpower and other resources had been continually cut, adding that Ms O’Sullivan’s comments at the Public Accounts Committee “make no sense”.

The Garda Representative Association said it was only when the appointment of senior officers was taken out of the political sphere that they would be able to publicly highlight any lack of resources without fearing a consequence for speaking out.

Seán Fleming TD (FF) yesterday put it to Ms O’Sullivan that losing so many Garda members who had not been replaced because of the recruitment moratorium must have “impacted policing”.

“No, deputy, I wouldn’t say it has impacted on our ability,” she said.

Ms O’Sullivan, who was deputy commissioner to Martin Callinan when he retired amid growing controversy three months ago, yesterday said losing resources had actually been an opportunity for the force to become more efficient and that new rosters had “clustered” services at times and places of most need.

Her comments on resourcing will anger many Garda members, who have been struggling to cope for years as numbers have depleted, overtime has been cut to the bone and basic resources like Garda vehicles which are needed in many areas. The head of the Garda Inspectorate Bob Olsen last month suggested the Garda did not have the resources to carry out its work.

The IT infrastructure enjoyed by police forces in other countries was not available to gardaí. Garda vehicles were being switched from urban to rural areas to get more mileage from old vehicles. It meant the fleet would all require upgrading at the same time and was a financial “time bomb”. He previously said training had stopped and he was meeting detectives who never received any training on how to be a detective.

AGSI general secretary John Redmond said the “dogs in the street” knew policing had been chronically under-resourced since the recession began. “If the commissioner is saying there’s been no effect on policing then why do we need 100 more?” he said in reference to a new class of Garda recruits due to begin training in coming weeks. “Have we been over-policed for the last 30 years? It doesn’t make any sense that. There has to be a knock-on effect [on policing].”

The GRA said when it had raised concerns over depleted resources and falling Garda numbers, which have dipped below 13,000 from a peak of 14,500 about three years ago, it had been met with “stock answers”.

In a statement to The Irish Times after Ms O’Sullivan’s comments yesterday, the GRA said the Garda no longer had the resources to provide a “first-class” policing service. “The GRA has repeatedly warned that reduced Garda numbers diminishes the policing service the public can expect. In some areas it is now impossible to cover all the policing needs.”

Both the GRA and AGSI noted that while the Government had promised a new class of 100 to 150 recruits would be starting at the Garda College, Templemore, Co Tipperary, this summer nothing had happened in that regard. Those successful in the recent competition for the places had been formally offered the places but there was no indication when they would be starting training.

The AGSI said if the issue was not progressed very soon, the Government would run out of time to start a second class of recruits in the college by the end of the year as had been planned.