Garda training and development budget cut by one-third
Fund cut from Department of Justice comes despite assertions of Garda incompetence
The budget for the Garda’s “training, development and incidental expenses” has been reduced to €12.7 million for 2017, down from just over €19 million in 2016. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA
The Department of Justice has cut the Garda’s budget for training and development by a third, despite Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan’s recent assertion that inflated breath-test data resulted from incompetence or deception by Garda members.
The reduction in funding came to light during Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald’s appearance before the Oireachtas justice committee on Wednesday, at which she faced questions from parliamentarians on her department’s revised budgetary estimates.
The figures show the budget for the Garda’s “training, development and incidental expenses” has been reduced to €12.7 million for 2017, down from just over €19 million in 2016.
Ms Fitzgerald said she could not provide a breakdown of the subsections, but would seek more details. She also said training of gardaí was “captured in other parts of the budget”.
In an address to the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) on Tuesday, Ms O’Sullivan stood over her earlier assertion that inflated breath-test data resulted from incompetence or deception by Garda members.
Subsequently, AGSI vice-president Antoinette Cunningham said there had been a “complete lack of training” of members over the last 10 years, which had created “a high risk to operational policing practice on the frontline”.
Responding to a question on the cut to the training budget from Fianna Fáil TD Jack Chambers, Ms Fitzgerald said ongoing training of gardaí was “high-priority” and in a “rebuilding” phase. “I do want to assure you there is not a reversal in training,” she said.
Mr Chambers said funding for Garda training and development should be presented as a separate field. “The concern when you’re listening to the GRA [Garda Representative Association] and AGSI is that they’re not getting the continuous professional development they require,” he said.
“In my view, and particularly as the economy improves, it should be a core necessity in terms of policing reform. It’s important they positively and specifically detail the increases in budgetary allocations to that specific field.
“You hear a lot of talk politically and within the Garda itself of training and progressing people with the best up-to-date training. But when you actually go through the budgetary allocations, they don’t know what they’re giving.”
Overall, the Department of Justice’s budget for the year has increased by 3.6 per cent to almost €2.6 billion. Of that, €1.6 billion is expected to be spent on the Garda.
Funding has been provided for the recruitment of 800 Garda recruits, up to 500 civilians and 300 Garda reserves.
“Deputies will appreciate that increasing resources, of itself, will not defeat the scourge of gang-related serious crime,” she said. “Rather, a comprehensive range of measures is being put in place so that a fully co-ordinated response can be delivered.
“In addition to legislative measures targeting repeat burglars, other measures are being introduced to tackle gang-related and associated crime.
“These include the additional powers provided to the Criminal Assets Bureau in relation to the proceeds of crime. A second Special Criminal Court was established and has been hearing cases since last May.”
Ms Fitzgerald said the new Armed Support Unit for the Dublin metropolitan region now operates on a 24/7 basis and has been involved in a total of 248 serious incidents in a three-month period.
Separately, the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner has seen its budget rise 59 per cent to €7.5 million. “This is an area that is going to require more and more resources,” said Ms Fitzgerald.
The Courts Service’s budget has been increased by 24 per cent to €140 million. Most of this is due to the development of new courthouses in Drogheda, Letterkenny, Limerick and Wexford.