Gardaí who moved to Australian policing service reapplying to join force

GRA backs ’bring garda home’ move, says recruitment should be racially diverse

The Government is targeting a Garda force of 21,000 by 2021. Photograph: The Irish Times

The Government is targeting a Garda force of 21,000 by 2021. Photograph: The Irish Times

 

Former gardaí who left the force to serve as police officers in Australia have been applying to rejoin An Garda Síochána.

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan said such opportunities will increase to meet the Government’s target of a Garda force of 21,000 by 2021, comprising 15,000 serving gardaí, 2,000 reserve officers and 4,000 civilians.

Garda authorities are also hoping that individuals with appropriate policing experience and qualifications gained in other jurisdictions will also apply for civilian positions as part of the planned 20 per cent increase in the force’s membership by 2021.

A number of gardaí left Ireland during the economic crash to take up policing roles, particularly in Australia - which led to an RTÉ documentary series Garda Down under based on the experience of six gardaí in Western Australia.

Mr Flanagan told Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy that although there was no mechanism for the ‘transfer’ of police officers with relevant skills from other forces, there were a “number of routes” open to individuals with relevant experience and qualifications including statutory provision for former members to rejoin.

Ms Murphy had asked the Minister about reforming Garda recruitment policy, including increasing the age limit for recruits, currently 35, to allow qualified officers in other European police services transfer to the force.

Mr Flanagan said the 2005 Garda Síochána Act allows former members to rejoin. He said “the most recent applications in this respect, concern former members who departed to serve in police services in Australia and have gained valuable skills and experience from that service and wish to rejoin An Garda Síochána”.

To date three former gardaí who went on to serve in Australian police forces have been reappointed to An Garda Síochána.

But the numbers who left to take up policing roles abroad is unclear.

A Garda spokesman said: “Whilst a member of An Garda Síochána may indicate where they intend on moving or taking up future employment when resigning, it is not a requirement. Therefore we would not keep a record of these figures.”

The Garda Representative Association, which represents rank-and-file gardaí has said it fully supports any move to “bring Garda home” if they passed out in Ireland and wished to return to service in the State.

“Garda management should immediately make this process as transparent and expeditious as is possible,” a GRA spokesman said.

But he added: “The force is still far short of the numbers it needs in order to police effectively. Using Police Scotland as a comparative population model, An Garda Síochána should be a force of some 16,000 men and women - it is still however barely over the 13,000 mark.

“The GRA calls on Government to now begin a fresh recruitment campaign where we harvest men and women from all walks of Irish life and especially actively recruit in the racially diverse communities that have now made Ireland their home.”

The programme for a partnership government, however, pledges to increase the force to 15,000.

Mr Flanagan said force numbers would reach 13,500 by the end of 2017, allowing for retirements, an increase of 500 since the end of 2016. A further 800 Garda trainees are expected to graduate or “attest” next year.

The Minister said to achieve that by 2021, allowing for expected retirements, 2,400 new gardaí would have to be recruited on a phased basis over the next three years.

This is in addition to the 2,000 that will have been recruited by the end of this year, since the Garda College reopened in 2014, he told Labour leader Brendan Howlin in a separate parliamentary reply.