Garda ‘constrained’ by budget cuts, acting Commissioner says

Nóirín O’Sullivan tells policing event that force has ‘adequate’ resources to meet obligations

Acting Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan said she believed the force still had adequate resources for policing. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Acting Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan said she believed the force still had adequate resources for policing. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Fri, Jun 20, 2014, 18:44

The Garda force had been hit by budget cuts that “constrained” it, but it still had “adequate” resources to meet its obligations, acting Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan has said.

And she insisted some investments were being made.

“This year alone we have bought 140 new cars which are augmenting the fleet. But when new resources and new finances are made available we can prioritise on where those new cars need to go and what types of cars and bikes we need.”

However, despite the reduced resources she believed the Garda was “policing very well”.

“Yes, the numbers have fallen slightly under 13,000,” she said in reference to the total strength of the force and the number former Garda commissioner Martin Calllinan said they should not fall below.

“Nevertheless, we do have adequate resources to police,” Ms O’Sullivan added.

She was speaking at an event in Farmleigh, Phoenix Park, Dublin, in which stakeholders in the justice and policing areas were meeting today for a consultation on how the new Garda Authority would be introduced.

This week the head of the Garda Inspectorate, which reviews all elements of policing in the Republic and advises the Garda and Government on the need for reforms, expressed the clear view that policing was struggling.

Chief Inspector Bob Olsen said the Garda did not have the resources it needed to carry out its work in the way it should.

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 had previously said Garda training had ground to a halt and that he and his staff were meeting detectives who had never received any training on how to be a detective.

Yesterday the Public Accounts Committee was told by the secretary general of the Department of Transport, Tom O’Mahony, that some parts of the penalty points system were on hold for years because neither the Garda nor Irish Courts Service had the IT it needed to operate them.

Ms O’Sullivan pointed out that Garda recruitment was about to begin again in the weeks ahead, saying it was something the organisation was looking forward to.

The new recruits would enter a Garda culture where the standards expected from them were clear.

The Garda culture needed to “tell them what those standards, values and behaviours are and ensure that the training is adequate and robust enough to foster those values in people”.

The Guerin report, which indentified serious shortcomings in policing in Bailieboro, Co Cavan, “represented an opportunity to review some of the policies and practices around investigations and supervision over sight and management”.

She said an online survey of Garda members since she had assumed her post on an interim basis following the snap retirement of Mr Callinan two months ago reflected the concerns that the main Garda representative bodies had been raising.

“I know the perception is that morale is on the ground. Certainly people are hurting, people are concerned and they were very concerned at everything that has happened.”

However, she believed the visible leadership she had demonstrated and her efforts to travel around and meet members of the force “not alone reinforced confidence in people that it’s business as normal, but that we can build on what has happened in the past, we can learn lessons and get stronger”.

She would “shortly” be in a position to talk about her plans to reorganised Garda Headquarters and also the reforms put in place as a result of the Guerin report.

She was aware of comments by independent TD Clare Daly in the Dáil yesterday when she alleged Mr Callinan, while still in office, had made attempts to contact the main Garda staff associations to ask them to express no confidence in the Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission.

“I am aware of the reporting today which also says that the Garda associations have refuted that but that’s all I know about that.”

She said the Garda whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe had returned to work and continued to enjoy the support of senior management in that regard. However, she did not want to go into specifics about the circumstances of any individual Garda member.