Shatter plays down Garda cuts
Minister for Justice Alan Shatter today said there was “no reality or possibility” that An Garda Síochána would be forced to cut staff numbers by "1,000 to 1,500" due to reduced budgets this year.
Mr Shatter was reacting to media reports in recent days that suggested the extent of cuts in the 2013 budget for the force was such that senior officers were now planning to reduce numbers by between 1,000 and 1,500 this year.
It is anticipated that 400 gardaí will retire in 2013, bringing numbers down to around 13,000, a target that should have been met by the end of 2012 under the terms of the State's bailout.
However, recent reports suggested senior officers believed the budget had been cut to such an extent, that up to 1,000 more members would need to be removed from the payroll this year, possibly by using career breaks.
Speaking to RTÉ Radio, Mr Shatter denied Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan and has senior colleagues had been “ambushed” by the reduction in their 2013 budget, insisting the cut in Garda numbers speculated upon was not “reality”.
He also said the reduction in payroll was €26 million in the current year and not €35 million. He said it has been known for more than two years that the funding available to the Department of Justice for this year would be €62 million lower than last year. He pointed out that the budget for 2012 was over €100 million lower than that seen in 2011.
Mr Shatter added that a number of measures were being examined to deal with this year’s budget reduction, including controlling overtime and allowances and using greater efficiencies when gardaí appeared in court to give evidence, a practice traditionally funded by using overtime.
“I’ve every confidence in the Garda Commissioner and the Garda to fulfil their duties. There’s no reason for people to be alarmed.”
He said recruitment to the force, which has been stopped under the public sector recruitment moratorium, would be examined by the end of this year or early next year. The Minister said he would discuss the matter with his Cabinet colleagues at that time.
Mr Shatter added that Mr Callinan and the wider force were doing an “extraordinary job”, particularly in tackling issues such as increased activity by dissident republicans, gangs involved in drug dealing and growing cannabis crops and those engaged in burglaries.
He was also critical of some groups representing Garda members who had expressed their view that morale in the force was very low as a result of constant cost cutting measures. "There is not a low morale in the Garda force. The vast number of members I meet…. have a very high morale. The members of the force should be enormously proud of their achievements. The gardaí deserve the applause of the general public."
The Minister said the record of the Garda was “precisely the reason” he had recently extended the term of office of Mr Callinan by two years.